AI in the Further Education Apprenticeship Sector

Pros and Cons of AI in the further education and apprenticeship sector
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    Hey there, fellow Further Education and Apprenticeship professionals! Keith Truslove here, Account Director at ACE360. Today, I want to dive into a topic that’s been buzzing around our industry: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its role in shaping the future of apprenticeship programs.

    Is it a force for good or bad? I think it could be more nuanced than that… Let’s start by looking at the pros and cons!

    The Pros of AI in the FE Sector

    It’s not all doom and gloom. You would be forgiven for believing that AI is the end to life as we know it given all of the negative media coverage it is getting, but I believe there are genuine use-cases, particularly when looking at enhancing productivity!

    Enhanced Personalisation

    Imagine a world where apprentices get tailor-made learning experiences that suit their individual needs like a glove. With AI-powered platforms, course developers could harness the power of AI to make that a reality.

    Perhaps by empowering learning professionals with AI tools that can help them better personalise subject matter to students, learner outcomes and grades could improve. One size doesn’t fit all after all!

    The key to success though is, in my opinion, human involvement in the process. Without it, we run the risk of depersonalising learning experiences, which would actually damage the learner’s experience.

    Efficient Resource Allocation

    We all know the struggle of drowning in administrative tasks. But fear not! Like ACE360, AI could help make a lot of that stuff a thing of the past by automating mundane tasks. That means more time for the responsibilities that learning professionals are passionate about—teaching and mentoring to name a couple!

    I hear all too often from training businesses that they are understaffed and under-resourced. Could AI be the answer we are all looking for? I think so! Any tools that help remove the noise from peoples’ roles is a win in my opinion…

    Predictive Analytics

    AI isn’t just good at winning chess matches, it also proves pretty useful when spotting patterns in apprentices’ performance data. By predicting potential hurdles early on, FE professionals can swoop in with timely support and boost success rates across the board.

    With apprenticeship success rates sitting at just 54% after marginally increasing from the previous year, I can’t help but think that’s a good thing!

    The Cons of AI in the FE Sector

    Potential for Bias

    Now, let’s address the elephant in the room: bias. AI systems are only as fair as the data they’re fed, which means there’s a risk of perpetuating existing biases if we’re not careful. It’s like teaching a parrot to swear—what goes in comes out!

    Now, it would be unrealistic to expect that the transition towards new ways of working wouldn’t be accompanied by a few teething problems, but perhaps forming groups with the shared interest of monitoring and evaluating the use of AI within the sector could be a possible way to minimise this risk.

    Skills Gap Concerns

    As AI takes on more tasks, there’s a concern that the gap between what apprentices learn and what the job market needs might widen. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole—not ideal, to say the least.

    However, with that said, there is also the argument to be made about the use of AI helping level the playing field for people of different educational backgrounds, spoken languages, and other factors that sometimes come into play in the workplace.

    Privacy and Ethical Considerations

    Last but not least, let’s talk privacy. Collecting and crunching apprentices’ data can be a bit of a minefield, ethically speaking. We’ve got to make sure we’re playing by the rules and keeping our apprentices’ info under lock and key!

    For those of us currently utilising AI, are we even sure where this data is processed and held? When it comes to processing learner data, let’s stick to what we know is safe and secure – ACE360. In fact, we are happy to have recently just renewed our Cyber and Fraud Centre membership for 2024/25, demonstrating our continued commitment to data privacy and adherence to GDPR laws.

    Striking a Balance

    In a nutshell, I think AI can be a force for good in the FE Apprenticeship sector, providing it is used responsibly, with the interest of the sector and its learners in mind.

    It’s a double-edged sword though – how can we ensure that it is used responsibly? Who should be involved in that conversation and when? As time progresses, I believe it should be all of our responsibility to ‘steer this ship’ in the right direction so to speak.

    Thank you for reading my latest blog piece. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have any! If you could, please drop me an email at keith.truslove@fisss.org and let’s keep this conversation going!

    Keith Truslove
    Account Director, ACE360

    This post was written by Keith Truslove

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    Keith is the Account Director at Federation for Industry Sector Skills and Standards (FISSS).

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