Connecticut Works Towards Creating First Citizens AI Academy to Address Skills Gap

Connecticut is taking proactive steps to address the potential skills gap caused by the increasing reliance on generative artificial intelligence (AI) in the job market. The state aims to establish the country’s first Citizens AI Academy, an online platform offering curated classes to help individuals acquire basic AI skills or obtain certificates necessary for employment. State Democratic Senator James Maroney emphasized the importance of staying current in this rapidly evolving field and identifying trusted sources for skill updates.

Determining the necessary skills in an AI-driven world poses a challenge for state legislators due to the fast-paced nature of technology and varying opinions on the best approach. Gregory LaBlanc, a professor at Berkeley Law School, suggests focusing on teaching individuals how to use and manage generative AI rather than delving into the technical aspects. He believes that AI complements human capabilities in areas such as creativity, empathy, and high-level problem-solving. LaBlanc draws parallels to historical technological advancements, where individuals didn’t need to understand the inner workings of electricity to succeed.

Connecticut is not alone in its efforts to address AI in education. California, Mississippi, and Maryland have also proposed legislation to incorporate AI literacy into school curriculums. California’s proposed bill, supported by the California Chamber of Commerce, aims to integrate AI principles and applications into various subjects. Assemblymember Marc Berman highlights the need for students to understand AI’s implications, limitations, and ethical considerations to ensure responsible usage.

Connecticut’s Citizens AI Academy is expected to offer certificates for completing skills programs relevant to future careers. However, Senator Maroney emphasizes the importance of covering the basics, including digital literacy and effective interaction with AI technologies. A study by job-search company Indeed revealed that all U.S. jobs listed on their platform could be performed or augmented by generative AI, with a significant portion falling into the “highly exposed” or “moderately exposed” categories.

Maroney expresses concerns about the potential skills gap exacerbating existing inequities, particularly in underserved communities lacking access to high-speed internet, computers, and smartphones. A report by McKinsey and Company projected that generative AI could increase household wealth in the U.S. by nearly $500 billion by 2045 but also widen the wealth gap between Black and white households by $43 billion annually.

Advocates for narrowing the digital skills gap, such as Marvin Venay from Bring Tech Home, emphasize the need for inclusive education to eliminate barriers and build trust in AI. Tesha Tramontano-Kelly, executive director of CfAL for Digital Inclusion, highlights the importance of addressing broader issues such as affordable internet access and technology equipment alongside AI training.

While the conversation around AI training is crucial, Tramontano-Kelly suggests that ensuring accessibility and affordability of the internet and technology equipment should be prioritized. Connecticut, known for its technological advancements, still faces challenges in terms of broadband subscription rates and affordability. Addressing these foundational issues will be vital in preparing individuals for an AI-driven workforce.