13 Feb 2024
by Tess Buckley, Nimmi Patel

Recap of City and Financial Global’s EU AI Act Summit: How to deal with the lack of skills

City and Financial Global hosted the EU AI Act Summit, held in Central London on February 6th. The EU AI Act, the first comprehensive model for AI regulation internationally (aside from China's AI regulation with different objectives), was highlighted for its prescriptive, rules-based approach covering both providers and users of AI technologies. Despite uncertainties regarding its enforcement, the summit convened an exceptional panel of experts to offer practical guidance for preparing for the legislation's introduction, recognising its significant impact on the AI landscape. 

Nimmi Patel, Head of Skills, Talent, and Diversity at techUK, participated in the closing panel titled "How to deal with the lack of skills, one of the biggest barriers to AI adoption at the moment? Best practice in the UK, Europe, and beyond," alongside Dr. Matthew Forshaw, Senior Advisor for Skills at The Alan Turing Institute and Reader in Data Science at Newcastle University. The panel was chaired by Minesh Tanna, Partner and Global AI Lead at Simmons & Simmons, also serving as Chair of the AI Group at the Society for Computers and Law (SCL) and Chair of the AI Committee at the City of London Law Society (CLLS).  

The challenges and opportunities surrounding the skills gap in AI were brought to the forefront on this panel. With over 1000 members in techUK who often expressing concerns about the scarcity of skills in areas such as deep learning and natural language processing, the discussion highlighted the urgent need for both technical and softer skills to drive AI innovation forward. 

In navigating the complex terrain of AI skills, collaboration between government, industry, and educational institutions is paramount. By prioritising literacy, upskilling, and quality assurance, we can equip individuals and businesses to harness the transformative potential of AI responsibly and sustainably. 

Key considerations from the panel discussion on skill scarcity and AI adoption included: 

  1. Identifying the Skills Needed: The conversation underscored the necessity for various skill sets across different sectors. From critical thinking and project management to specialised technical ethics, the demand for talent spans a wide spectrum. Moreover, there was a consensus that leadership in governance and introduction of AI requires interdisciplinary collaboration and proactive engagement with affected communities. More importantly we need to more effectively signpost what skills are required in a successful candidate. 

  1. Specific Skill Deficits and Solutions: A comparison with the US emphasised the need for upskilling and agility in career paths. To address the lack of a lifelong learning culture in the UK, there were calls to support continuous education and skill development, particularly for SMEs who may lack resources for in-house talent cultivation. An innovative approach involving competency-based skills frameworks and ethical recruitment practices was proposed to bridge the skills gap effectively. 

  1. Initiatives to Increase Literacy: Efforts at national and industry levels, such as Microsoft's AI skills initiative and government-led master's conversion courses, were highlighted as steps towards enhancing AI literacy. Additionally, the development of open-source courses and online learning environments aims to democratise access to AI education and standardise skill acquisition processes. 

  1. Ensuring Quality of Accreditations: Quality assurance mechanisms, including accreditations from reputable organisations like BCS and Tech Gold, are deemed essential to ensure the credibility of AI education programs. Moreover, the forthcoming AI Act places emphasis on literacy and education, signaling a shift towards greater accountability and preparedness for AI adoption. 

  1. Looking Ahead: As AI continues to evolve rapidly, individuals and organisations must embrace a proactive stance towards upskilling and adaptability. Initiatives like the Bridge AI Programme aim to empower individuals to navigate the AI landscape confidently, fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation. 

For further consideration: Parallels between financial and AI literacy  

The discussion concluded with an audience question which drew parallels between AI literacy and financial literacy, highlighting the importance of education and awareness in preparing for the AI-driven future. Financial literacy and AI literacy are both crucial skills in today's rapidly evolving world, albeit in different domains. 

Financial literacy involves understanding concepts such as budgeting, investing, managing debt, and comprehending financial products. It empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their money and secure their financial futures. Lack of financial literacy can lead to debt, poor investment choices, and financial instability. 

On the other hand, AI literacy refers to understanding the fundamentals of artificial intelligence, including its applications, implications, and limitations. It involves grasping concepts like machine learning, neural networks, and algorithms. AI literacy enables individuals to navigate the increasingly AI-driven world, make ethical decisions regarding AI technologies, and potentially harness AI for innovation and problem-solving. 

While financial literacy focuses on managing personal finances, AI literacy addresses understanding and engaging with transformative technology that impacts various aspects of society, from healthcare to transportation. Both literacies are essential for individuals to thrive in the modern world, ensuring financial security and effectively navigating the complexities of AI-driven environments. 

techUK, through our Skills, Talent and Diversity programme will continue to advocate on behalf of our members to drive talent funnels to decrease skills scarcity and increase AI literacy. If you would like to participate more actively in our work, please email [email protected] or [email protected].



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Tess Buckley

Tess Buckley

Programme Manager, Digital Ethics and AI Safety, techUK

Tess is the Programme Manager for Digital Ethics and AI Safety at techUK.  

Prior to techUK Tess worked as an AI Ethics Analyst, which revolved around the first dataset on Corporate Digital Responsibility (CDR), and then later the development of a large language model focused on answering ESG questions for Chief Sustainability Officers. Alongside other responsibilities, she distributed the dataset on CDR to investors who wanted to further understand the digital risks of their portfolio, she drew narratives and patterns from the data, and collaborate with leading institutes to support academics in AI ethics. She has authored articles for outlets such as ESG Investor, Montreal AI Ethics Institute, The FinTech Times, and Finance Digest. Covered topics like CDR, AI ethics, and tech governance, leveraging company insights to contribute valuable industry perspectives. Tess is Vice Chair of the YNG Technology Group at YPO, an AI Literacy Advisor at Humans for AI, a Trustworthy AI Researcher at Z-Inspection Trustworthy AI Labs and an Ambassador for AboutFace. 

Tess holds a MA in Philosophy and AI from Northeastern University London, where she specialised in biotechnologies and ableism, following a BA from McGill University where she joint-majored in International Development and Philosophy, minoring in communications. Tess’s primary research interests include AI literacy, AI music systems, the impact of AI on disability rights and the portrayal of AI in media (narratives). In particular, Tess seeks to operationalise AI ethics and use philosophical principles to make emerging technologies explainable, and ethical. 

Outside of work Tess enjoys kickboxing, ballet, crochet and jazz music.

[email protected]

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Nimmi Patel

Nimmi Patel

Head of Skills, Talent & Diversity, techUK

Nimmi Patel is the Head of Skills, Talent and Diversity at techUK.

She works on all things skills, education, and future of work policy, focusing on upskilling and retraining. Nimmi is also an Advisory Board member of Digital Futures at Work Research Centre (digit). The Centre research aims to increase understanding of how digital technologies are changing work and the implications for employers, workers, job seekers and governments. She is also a member of Chatham House's Common Futures Conversations

Prior to joining the team, she worked for the UK Labour Party and New Zealand Labour Party, and holds a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Manchester and holds an MA Strategic Communications at King’s College London.

[email protected]

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