The Looming Crisis: How AI Threatens the Careers of Young Workers

Kawasaki Robotics

The rise of generative AI, such as ChatGPT, has created excitement among bosses and CEOs who see its potential for automating monotonous tasks and increasing efficiency. However, there has been little consideration for the impact this technology will have on the workers it replaces. Many of these tasks, often handled by entry-level employees, were seen as a way for them to develop their skills and prove themselves in the workplace.

Unfortunately, young workers have been facing challenges in building their careers even before the advent of AI. Rising college costs have burdened them with significant student debt, and the requirement of a college degree for many jobs has limited their options. Entry-level job postings often demand several years of experience, making it difficult for young workers to break into the workforce. Even internships, which could provide valuable experience, are often unpaid or offer low wages.

Once young workers do secure a job, they face another obstacle: a lack of support and development from companies. Training programs have been scaled back, leaving young workers to navigate their careers largely on their own. Mentorship programs, when they exist, are often voluntary and not accessible to those who need it most. Workplace cultures often discourage asking for help, creating a feeling that organizations do not care about their employees’ growth and well-being.

With the introduction of generative AI, many junior tasks are being automated, further diminishing the opportunities for young workers to learn and grow. This not only deprives them of meaningful work but also limits their chances of proving themselves capable of taking on more challenging tasks. Promotions become a game of favoritism, with the best opportunities reserved for those with connections rather than hardworking individuals. The implementation of AI benefits established players and perpetuates a disconnected management culture.

While CEOs and executives are enthusiastic about integrating AI into the workplace, frontline workers have concerns. The potential impact of AI is viewed as exciting by only 39% of frontline workers, while 46% find it scary. The fear is justified, as automation will likely hit entry-level workers the hardest. The managerial class, which has already neglected support and development for young workers, sees AI as a cheap and easy solution without considering the consequences.

Investing in employee training and development has been shown to benefit companies in terms of efficiency and profitability. However, many organizations fail to recognize the value of human capital beyond labor costs. The short-term focus on immediate revenue growth overlooks the long-term value of nurturing and growing employees.

The future looks challenging for young workers, with the escalating costs of college and limited opportunities colliding with a corporate culture that undervalues investing in human potential. This will ultimately weaken the economy and hinder the ability to tackle the challenges brought by new technology. Instead of solely relying on AI, companies should consider investing in training, mentorship programs, and rewarding employees for their growth and contributions.

It remains to be seen whether companies will learn the dangers of over-reliance on AI through painful public examples. Human workers can be enhanced and supported by AI, but replacing them entirely is a shortsighted decision. The true value lies in combining AI with training and mentorship programs to maximize the potential of both technology and human capabilities.