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ACC Holds Forum on Generative AI

The dawn of every innovation in the workforce creates challenges for students and employees who need to refine their skills to stay competitive in the job market.

Alvin Community College held a forum with faculty and staff, officials from local school districts and community leaders on October 30-31 to talk about the future of artificial intelligence and its impact on education and the workforce.

Keynote speaker for the forum was Todd McLees, a consultant and expert on generative AI. He is also managing partner of the Innovation Outpost in Amarillo College to help students upskill in cybersecurity, data analytics, project management and cloud computing.

“My goal is to instill a little bit of urgency in taking a look at what your AI strategy might be and to talk about ways in which we can extract value,” McLees said. “And balance that with the risks that we’re seeing.”

The purpose of the seminar is to not only keep up to date with the developments in AI but also to help students and educators prepare for future changes in the field, said Dr. Robert J. Exley, ACC President.

“This is challenging for us from both what do we do to help our students, but also what do we do to help the workforce,” he said.

The focus of the forum is on generative AI, which is geared towards augmenting human capabilities whether in creative fields or analysis such as large language models like ChatGPT.

“The future pathways are going to be different and we need to help people understand that,” McLees said during a meeting with ACC staff.

Paradigm shifts in technological advancements are increasing at a rapid pace to the point that humanity has encountered more such shifts in the past two decades than in several centuries before that, McLees said.

This could require people to prepare for ever-changing careers. The flexibility to reskill and upskill will be necessary for workers in their career trajectories, he said. The model of a worker joining a career force and working in that field until they retire will be soon be obsolete, McLees said.

Certain skills will have a shelf life of two years which will mean a worker has to be ready to move on to another.

“We have to think about perishable skills, transferrable skills and durable skills,” he said. “The more we can add to our portfolio around transferrable skills and durable skills, the more long term value we will be able to assign to our skills-based portfolio.”

While AI technology is poised to change how we learn and how we work, it will also raise questions about how it is used ethically.

In education, tools such as ChatGPT will change coursework because students will be able to create content in a much more rapid fashion which creates questions about academic rigor and ethics, he said. Those challenges must be met head on to ensure that the technology is used appropriately by students that can benefit their education, he said.

“That’s part of the human response that we have to formulate,” McLees said. “We have to have a voice in that narrative. It can’t be written for us.