How is AI changing the contract market in 2023?

5 min read | Tim Olsen | Article | Career development Upskilling | Information technology sector

AI contractor market

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is at the forefront of discussions about the future of work today, as it has rapidly advanced and become more accessible to a wide audience in recent times. The most significant development in AI over the last 12 months is undoubtedly the growth and adoption of generative AI tools and large language models such as ChatGPT. The question is: how will AI tools and technologies impact the contractor market?

Certain contractor roles could be at risk

Whilst we haven’t so far witnessed major changes to contractor roles as a result of AI, we are beginning to see the impact of AI unfold as its presence grows across a number of areas. For example, contractors in charge of carrying out repetitive, information processing tasks like data entry could be at risk, as these activities could be automated. On top of this, generative AI is now writing, debugging and delivering almost 50% of the code in some organisations, reducing the need for junior developers. Tech writing contractors, journalists, transcribers and other documentation-focused contractors may also experience increased competition, as AI writing assistants can generate articles, reports and other content.

The grey area

That being said, the part AI is starting to play in the world of work is by no means black and white, and AI could support roles rather than replace them. For instance, data analysts and researchers who are contracted to manually gather, clean and analyse datasets could face competition from AI tools which have the capability to automate aspects of their work. On the other hand, skilled analysts are essential in order to deploy AI successfully, illustrating the need for professionals to collaborate with these new technologies.

Although AI systems can generate findings and advise, rather than threatening consultants and industry experts who provide insights and recommendations, this could lead to an increase in demand for these professionals with AI delivery skills. We are starting to see ‘AI’ included in job titles and requirements; there is a growing demand for roles such as AI engineers and solution architects with AI knowledge, reinforcing the idea that we should work alongside AI, rather than fear or resent it.

The advantages and challenges of AI

AI could bring about many benefits for contractors and organisations alike, such as improved efficiency, productivity, speed and cost-savings on various projects. It goes without saying that contractors who can use AI to their advantage will stand out above others who do not. Some skillsets will be in high demand, so talented contractors can strive for the salary and benefits they want in such a skills-short market.

Whilst AI could increase the overwhelming pressure for contractors to constantly learn new skills to stay relevant, these rapid developments in AI present valuable opportunities for contractors to upskill in order to future-proof their careers. The rise of AI similarly places emphasis on the importance of soft skills, so contractors can focus on enhancing their irreplaceable human skills like leadership, strategy, design, creativity and interpersonal skills such as communication.  

Inevitably, there are several risks of relying on AI in the workplace, including the displacement of contractors as certain roles become automated. It’s crucial to question the extent to which we can trust AI completely, by double checking the reliability of its outputs.

What the future might hold for the contractor market

Looking ahead, the contractor market will continue to evolve alongside advances in AI. Whilst certain jobs might be replaced, new AI-focused roles will emerge and the necessity for contractors who can build, manage, and integrate AI systems will grow. Employers may increasingly look for a balance of AI and human contractors tailored to their needs, which will accelerate as organisations get to grips with the adoption of AI and either utilise new off-the-shelf solutions or build their own systems. Contractors should gain skills in collaborating with AI, managing AI projects, and delivering creative human judgment and oversight on top of AI systems. Employers need strategies for integrating AI and human contractors, training and upskilling to prepare to use these new technologies and approaches to ensure responsible usage of AI. With the right preparation, both contractors and employers can harness the advantages of AI while minimizing the risks and disruptions.

Ultimately, AI is already starting to shake up the contractor market today, but this is likely to accelerate; contractors and employers who recognise this and proactively adapt will be best positioned to benefit from the AI revolution ahead.

Previously featured in Contractor UK. 


About this author

Tim Olsen - Making Intelligent Automation scale, consultant, futurist, influencer and speaker.

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