Partner Sites

Logo BusinessBecause - The business school voice
mobile search icon

Artificial Intelligence In Business: Do Employers Value AI Skills?

Despite the increased focus on artificial intelligence in business, a new survey reveals there is currently low demand for AI skills among top employers worldwide

Tue Jun 25 2024

Despite the ongoing surge in new artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and emergence of career options, employer demand for AI skills among business school graduates is limited, according to a new survey. 

The 2024 Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Corporate Recruiters Survey revealed AI skills were low in the list of important skills for recruiters. This is despite the rise of large language models such as ChatGPT, which have placed AI at the forefront of business discussions. Recent studies have also revealed that MBA applicants are increasingly prioritizing technology and AI skills over core MBA subjects in the curriculum.

However, the survey did reveal that rapid advancements in AI technology anticipated in the near future mean recruiters expect a major shift in their priorities within the next five years, with jobs for MBAs and Masters students likely to be impacted.

The survey was based on responses from over 900 recruiters across 38 countries, with just over half of employers (51%) hiring for Global Fortune 100 or 500 companies. To provide clarity on the different meanings of AI, the survey defined AI skills as the ability to utilize AI tools for data analysis, predictive modeling, and process automation.

Low demand for artificial intelligence in business school grads

Currently, AI skills rank low in importance for employers when hiring business school graduates. AI skills were listed 21st out of 22 possible skills identified within the survey. Only 26% of global employers view AI skills as crucial in today’s workforce, the study revealed. 

However, there was consensus among employers that the ability to leverage AI will become significantly more important over the next five years. For instance, while AI skills rank as the 21st most important skill among Western European employers, they are expected to become the most important skill in the region within five years. 

Value of AI skills differs across industries

AI skills were most valued by survey respondents within the tech sector, yet only 36% of tech employers said they consider them important for graduates entering the field. 

Interest in AI skills was lowest in consulting, with just 17% of employers viewing them as important. Similarly low rates were seen in the healthcare/pharmaceutical (18%) and products/services (19%) industries.

These differences may be influenced by company budgets, as Fortune 100 companies in particular are more likely to have the resources to invest in the technical and business aspects of AI.

However, the variations primarily reflect the fluctuating reliance on tech skills across industries and roles. The tech sector naturally demands more AI expertise compared to consulting, for example. This explains the higher demand for AI skills in IT or software development functions compared to business-oriented positions that b-school graduates often pursue.

What skills are recruiters looking for in business school graduates?

In today’s job market, recruiters seek well-rounded candidates with a blend of technical and soft skills to navigate the modern workplace, the survey revealed. 

Core business skills such as communication, problem-solving, and strategic thinking were of most value to up to 59% of employers globally. In the US, problem-solving emerged as the most sought-after skill by 79% of employers, followed closely by communication skills.

When it came to how employers believed AI should be leveraged, employers were less interested in generative AI tools for image and video creation and generating written content quickly. Instead, two-thirds of employers across various industries and regions said they believed AI was best utilized for acquiring new skills and developing business strategies. 

This sentiment was particularly strong in the tech sector, where employers were less interested in using AI for research, ethics, and content creation. Instead, 74% of tech employers said they prioritized AI for helping graduates acquire knowledge and learn business skills.

Attitudes towards AI skills vary across regions

The importance of AI skills was recognized to varying degrees in different geographical locations. 

While just 13% of US employers believed AI skills to be strategically valuable, a quarter of employers from Western Europe and almost half (49%) of employers from Central and South Asia felt it was strategically valuable today.

Similar regional disparities were found in employers’ confidence in graduates’ AI capabilities. More than half of employers across regions—excluding the US—said they believed that candidates are equipped to leverage AI skills in their organizations upon graduation.

The skepticism among US employers about graduate preparedness may be because they do not see AI capabilities as critical for existing roles. However, US employers share the prediction that AI skills will become increasingly important in the next five years.