Bill would fund AI training through schools, nonprofits

A bill introduced in Congress — the Artificial Intelligence Literacy Act — aims to build AI skills and workforce preparedness as the emerging technology continues to change workplace dynamics.

The legislation, introduced Dec. 15, 2023, has drawn bipartisan support and endorsements from major universities, education associations and workforce partners, including the Society for Human Resource Management.

“At SHRM, we wholeheartedly applaud initiatives to increase AI literacy within the workforce. We firmly believe that combining human intelligence’s unique strengths with artificial intelligence’s power is the key to unlocking unparalleled returns on investment in today’s dynamic business landscape,” Emily Dickens, SHRM chief of staff and head of public affairs, said in a statement.

“Investing in AI literacy is not just a technology imperative; it’s a strategic investment in work, workers and workplaces,” she said. “By empowering our people to understand and leverage AI, we unlock its potential to drive efficiency, innovation and sustainable success.”

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., and Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., introduced the bill. They noted that AI adoption has more than doubled since 2017, and the average number of AI capabilities that organizations use doubled between 2018 and 2022. 

The AI Literacy Act would amend the Digital Equity Act of 2021 to include AI literacy and training opportunities, focusing on not only the basic principles and applications of AI but also the limitations and ethical considerations.

The legislation would also highlight the importance of AI literacy for national competitiveness, workforce preparedness and the well-being and digital safety of Americans. In addition, it would open grant eligibility for K-12 schools, colleges, nonprofits and libraries to support AI literacy.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which includes both Blunt Rochester and Bucshon as members.

“It’s no secret that the use of artificial intelligence has skyrocketed over the past few years, playing a key role in the ways we learn, work and interact with one another,” Blunt Rochester said in a statement. “Like any emerging technology, AI presents us with incredible opportunities along with unique challenges.”

AI curiosity among employees opens the door for employers to offer learning and development opportunities around AI, according to an Adecco Group report from October 2023. Although many employees reported using AI in the workplace, less than half said they received guidance on it from their employers.

Training opportunities could also ease concerns about AI skill threat among employees, according to a Pluralsight report released the same month. Workers who have fear or anxiety about their skill sets becoming obsolete due to AI — including software developers — could benefit from upskilling and reskilling programs, it concluded.