Overcoming the AI Talent Shortage

Artificial intelligence has become a huge contributor in the battle for digital transformation. In fact, according to a recent PwC report, global GDP could reach up to $15.7 trillion as a result of AI. But no organization can fully realize the value of this technology without adequate talent at the helm.

The PwC report goes on to point out: “If your business is operating in one of the sectors or economies that is gearing up for fast adoption of AI, you’ll have to move quickly if you want to capitalize on the openings, and ensure your business doesn’t lose out to faster-moving and more cost-efficient competitors.’’

Thanks to this rapid development and adoption, however, many companies are now dealing with an AI talent shortage. This problem exists even in sectors where adoption is slower or the potential for disruption is lower. In fact, staffing skills are the number one challenge for the majority of CIOs looking to adopt AI. The firm also predicts that by the year 2020, 85% of CIOs will be piloting AI projects. In order for that to happen, something has to give.

Roles will evolve, but the need for people will remain constant.

There has long been whisperings that artificial intelligence will eliminate jobs and replace human workers. But while some tasks will certainly be shifted to machine, the need for humans will still exist. They will simply need to master new skills that will enable them to work alongside AI. Those skills, which cannot be replicated by machines, include creativity, communication, leadership and emotional intelligence.

Meanwhile, the demand for data scientists, AI and robotics engineers and other experienced tech specialists continues to grow, and at a fast pace. Unfortunately, given the rapid rate of change and low barrier to entry, these talented individuals are becoming harder and harder to come by. As a result, forward-thinking organizations are focusing their efforts to helping existing employees develop the skills they need to navigate the changing workplace landscape.

Building a Pipeline

One way that organizations are addressing the shortage of AI talent is to establish relationships with resources such as universities and trade schools. This enables them to engage in learning projects, become involved through speaking and mentorship and – most importantly – tap into emerging talent at an early stage, before students enter the workforce.

Internships provide valuable real-world experience and the opportunity to hone their skills and network with other like-minded professionals through meaningful, hands-on projects. The company benefits through the development and ongoing growth of a talent pool from which to draw. It’s a win-win.

Development from Within

The beauty of AI is that it’s a technology that can draw interest from individuals with many different backgrounds. For instance, people with strengths in math, statistics and engineering make excellent candidates for working with machine learning. As such, many companies are discovering that they are already sitting on a gold mine in terms of sourcing talent for their AI initiatives. Internal training and development can be an incredibly effective alternative to external staffing efforts.

For those organizations that lack existing talent or simply don’t have the capacity to transition current employees into new AI-related roles, there is also the option to hire for soft skills and train for the rest. For instance, many futuristic leaders are seeking out candidates that are highly collaborative, possess aptitude and are open to learning new things. Once hired, they can then work on growing AI experts from within.

Closing Thoughts

Whichever way you look at it, the AI talent shortage is very real and it’s not something that can easily be solved, at least not for the foreseeable future. Organizations looking to adopt AI and work toward digital transformation must begin thinking outside the box to solve their staffing needs. In many cases, that means making connections, nurturing relationships and building talent in-house.

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