AI and data science jobs are hot. Here's what employers want | 7wData

AI and data science jobs are hot. Here's what employers want | 7wData

If you're considering a career change, it might be a good time to start looking for a good coding course. While many industries remain severely affected by the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, there is one sector that is actively recruiting: jobs in AI are booming, and the trend is showing no sign of abating. 

A new report carried out by research agency Ipsos Mori into the current state of the UK's AI labor market found that close to 110,500 job opening were posted in the past year for roles related to AI and data science. That's more than double the number of vacancies registered in 2014, and a 16% increase from 2019, marking the highest year to date for AI jobs posted on the market. 

Every month for the past three years, between 8,000 and 10,000 roles were posted online, ranging from data analysts and software developers to research and development or even university positions such as lecturers and professors in AI and data science. Sectors where demand is the highest, found the report, are the education and financial industries. 

In other words, for prospective candidates, there is plenty to pick from. And more is coming: two-thirds of firms, found Ipsos, expect the demand for AI skills in their organization to increase in the next 12 months. 

The benefits are good, too. With a mean advertised salary of £54,800 ($77,388), jobs in AI and data science offer a wage premium of 22% compared to IT roles overall.  

But as alluring as the role description might sound, found the report, employers are struggling to fill their job openings. The talent pool for AI, it would seem, is not sufficient to meet businesses' demand, and 69% of firms reported that they had found it difficult to fill at least one vacancy in the past two years. 

Much of the problem boils down to a lack of appropriate skills among applicants. More than two-thirds of businesses said they struggled to find candidates with the right technical skills and knowledge, while a significant minority of others (40%) reported a lack of work experience, as well as gaps in industry knowledge.  

So, what exactly should candidates for AI and data-science roles have on their CVs to convince future employers? Technical skills, of course, are key: businesses said that they were in search of applicants who understand AI concepts and algorithms, know programming skills and languages, and are familiar with software and systems engineering. 

A number of employers, said Ipsos, stressed the importance of deep learning in specialist roles, and of the need for candidates to know how to go beyond "low-level" AI.  

"We need people coming through the university system to learn from first principles how to create deep learning, neural network systems, rather than relying on off-the-shelf systems that are available through the big US companies," said one micro-business owner. 

For Roger Woods, dean of research at Queen's University in Belfast, who co-authored the report, the solution lies in creating dedicated courses that will train students to meet business's need for deep technical expertise from an early stage. 

"Whilst mathematics and further mathematics A-level course material is being modified to reflect the needs of AI, there is a strong case for a dedicated AI/ machine-learning A-level course," Woods tells ZDNet. "This will act to provide a greater number of talent coming from schools with some suitable expertise." 

At the level of higher education, too, things seem to be moving along. Ipsos found that last year, universities offered over 700 undergraduate courses in AI, robotics or data science, compared to only 122 in 2019.   

"This will act to produce qualified staff, but, of course, there will be a three-to-four-year lag before any immediate impact will be seen," forecasts Woods.

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