Microsoft & AFL-CIO form AI Alliance to educate workforces

Both organisations aim to collaborate in artificial intelligence (AI) by forming an alliance to shape future-led technology strategies and upskill workers

A new AI alliance has been formed between Microsoft and the United States (US) union federation, AFL-CIO, with the goal of further educating workers.

The alliance will incorporate the voice of the workforce in technology development and help shape policy that supports workers. Both organisations are aiming to create an open dialogue to discuss how AI must anticipate the needs of workers and include their voices in its development and implementation.

Whilst this news comes shortly after IBM and Meta announced their own AI Alliance to promote open-source models, the union between Microsoft and AFL-CIO is the first of its kind between a labour organisation and a technology company to focus on AI. This type of partnership could be the way forward for businesses seeking to advance in AI.

Both organisations are working towards three goals:
  • Sharing in-depth information with labour leaders and workers on AI technology trends
  • Incorporating worker perspectives and expertise in the development of AI technology
  • Helping shape public policy that supports the technology skills and needs of frontline workers

Building on a historic agreement Microsoft held with the Communications Workers of America Union (CWA) which covered video game workers at Activision and Zenimax, this new alliance also includes an agreement with Microsoft that provides a neutrality framework for future worker organising by AFL-CIO affiliated unions.

It marks a joint commitment to respect the rights of employees to form or join existing unions, in addition to developing worker skill sets during a period of widespread digital transformation across enterprises.

“By working directly with labour leaders, we can help ensure that AI serves the country’s workers,” says Brad Smith, Vice Chair and President of Microsoft. “This ground-breaking partnership honours the rights of workers, learns from the advice of labour leaders as we develop technology, and helps us provide people with the skills that will become essential in a new AI era.”

Making upskilling workers a priority

It has become increasingly more important for businesses to maintain a skilled workforce, particularly within ever-evolving AI sectors. Already, employees are worried about AI replacing them in the workplace and companies are having to improve their digital strategies in order to stay ahead.

Statistically, according to Corndel earlier in 2023, nearly half of senior business decision-makers believe that a lack of data skills is holding back their organisation’s business transformation. In particular, 37% cited data illiteracy as a significant barrier to success, with 82% holding no AI training. 

The AFL-CIO and Microsoft collaboration will propose and support policies to equip workers with the essential skills, knowledge and economic support needed to succeed in an AI-powered environment. To do this, they will expand the expansion of registered apprenticeships, in addition to tailoring generative AI to specific sectors impacted by AI.

The combined technology institute will also jointly develop and implement new content and professional learning opportunities to prepare workers for the future of working.

As a global tech giant, Microsoft is continually committed to upskilling initiatives, having previously trained more than one million people with the skills to advance their careers in an AI-driven economy.

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