The Deputy says preparing for the impact of computer automation on the Island’s dominant sector is ‘high on our radar’.
He cited a recent presentation he attended where a finance industry boss spoke in euphemistic terms about what AI will mean for Jersey.
‘One of the top finance directors said to us, “We have absorbed a lot of the workforce and, over the next couple of years, we will be releasing people back into the jobs market in Jersey”. I thought, “You are going to be sacking people. That is what it means”. So for us, as a government, how we adapt is work that is high on our radar.
‘It means not just churning out our 16-year-olds into the jobs market. It is also about how people change career and upskill. That is a huge piece of work for us,’ he said.
Those working in Jersey’s finance sector are among the highest earners in the Island. On average, each worker earns £1,020 a week, compared to the all-jobs average of £740. Latest figures show that 13,330 people work in financial services.
Deputy Maçon said: ‘With AI just around the corner, we are not certain how many jobs we will lose, or may not continue to be, within the financial services sector. The whole issue around the skills within the Island is something that has to be paramount.’
Responding to the concerns, Jersey Finance’s chief executive officer acknowledged swathes of jobs could be lost, but he remained optimistic.
Geoff Cook said: ‘Much has been said about the risk to jobs as a result of AI, but the reality is that AI has actually been around for some time. In fact, an OECD report published earlier this year suggested that fewer jobs are likely to be replaced by AI than has been previously suggested. It said that 12 per cent of jobs in the UK and ten per cent in the US are at “high risk” of being automated over the following 20 years, far less than previously thought.’
If repeated in Jersey, that would equate to around 1,600 jobs.
But Mr Cook added: ‘We are seeing that AI in financial services has the ability to create new roles, such as roles that specialise in using AI process automation. Firms are investing not just in AI itself, but in training for staff with a view to creating a whole range of future-focused roles that can complement and capture the upsides of AI, and bring added value to a business that has not previously been possible.’
The government is working on a new skills strategy which will focus not just on the school and college curriculum, but also on ways to ensure the Island’s workforce is equipped with the skills the industry needs.
Deputy Maçon said: ‘We are working on a new strategy. The previous one was a vision, not a strategy. It is absolutely one of the top agenda things because, strategically, it is where we want to go.’