L&D could ease ‘AI skill threat’ for software developers, report says

Software development — which remains an in-demand role for many companies — may be plagued by equity issues in artificial intelligence and skill threat concerns as generative AI technology improves. But a culture of learning and development could alleviate some of those concerns, according to an Oct. 18 Pluralsight report. 

About 45% of developers surveyed “showed evidence of AI skill threat” — in other words, fear, anxiety or worry that their competencies will become obsolete because of AI-assisted coding.

While nearly 3 in 4 developers surveyed said they were planning to upskill in AI-assisted coding, female and LGBTQ+ developers reported “significantly lower intent to upskill” compared to all developers surveyed. Racial minority developers, according to the report, reported significantly higher intent to upskill, but also reported much more negative perception of AI in comparison to all developers.

Software teams with “high contest cultures,” where employees must prove their worth through aggressive competition, tend to have higher incidence of skill threat, further pointing to the importance of company culture in keeping workers happy and motivated, the report said.

A culture of learning and belonging can help strengthen resilience in the face of such changes as well as ameliorate a high contest culture, Pluralsight said. Developers who felt like they belonged and were given the space to learn were more productive overall.

“[T]he human needs of developers matter profoundly in how this new technology is adopted and whether its implementation is successful,” said Cat Hicks, VP of Research Insights at Pluralsight, in a statement. “While there is marked uncertainty and anxiety among developers, our research underscores that core skills of lifelong learning and collaboration remain central to building software, and the future of AI-assisted coding relies on prioritizing a human-first approach.” 

Worker confidence in AI continues to grow, Robert Half survey results from August indicated, especially in the technology space. Respondents highlighted AI’s ability to take on time-consuming tasks and free up workers for more productivity.

“Human” skills remain central and in-demand to most occupations, however, according to a July report from TalentLMS. Skills like problem-solving, creativity and the ability to learn continually rank high, and upskilling or hiring for those competencies may need to exist alongside AI training, the report noted.