Demand for AI Skills to Surge in the Post-Pandemic Era

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AI and related digital technologies are poised to generate large numbers of jobs and related opportunities.

The COVID-19 crisis has created a great deal of uncertainty in the job market, with one of the largest — and hopefully temporary — unemployment spikes ever seen in the modern economy. One thing is certain, however — artificial intelligence and digitization are driving the growth of new careers. The recent crisis — which has pushed just about every company into digital transformation and virtual workspaces — has only increased demand for AI skills.

“While it was a microscopic invader rather than the rise of the robots that led to the current collapse of the labor market, it has become clear that the fallout of the pandemic will accelerate digitization and automation across a range of industries and sectors,” according to an analysis from the World Economic Forum. “This calls for new investments and mechanisms for upskilling and reskilling, for both deeply human skills as well as digital skills.”

See also: Successful Business Adoption of AI Requires Soft Skills

In fact, the COVID crisis also exposed some yawning gaps in AI capabilities. The sudden shift in consumer and business demand brought on by the crisis threw many AI systems out of whack, MIT Technology Review reports. Some observers feel “automation is in a tailspin,” while “others say they are keeping a cautious eye on automated systems that are just about holding up, stepping in with a manual correction when needed.”

AI and related digital technologies are poised to generate large numbers of jobs and related opportunities, the WEF reported earlier this year. The WEF authors say both “digital” and “human” skills will be critical to organizations in the months and years to come. The WEF projected demand will increase this year by 16% in data and AI, along with 12% for engineering and cloud computing skills,

The demand for AI skills varies by specialty. “While the role AI intelligence specialist is the fastest-growing new economy role, the absolute number of opportunities for this profession is relatively low,” the WEF analysts point out. “On the other hand, data scientist positions have slower annual growth rates but form the third-largest opportunity among the set of growing professions.”

The top AI-related skills noted in the WEF report will be artificial intelligence specialist, data scientist, data engineer, big data developer, and data analyst.

Getting into AI is a journey — potentially a fast-moving one at that.
“AI is a rocket ship that is taking off,” relates Satya Mallick, founder of Big Vision LLC, in a recent career overview at the BuiltIn career site. “Even entry-level jobs are insanely lucrative, paying two times or more compared to regular programming jobs. The reason is a huge demand for AI talent and not enough people with the right expertise.”

While Malick cautions that soaring salary levels may not be sustainable, he adds that “people who get on this rocket ship in the next five years or so will have amazing careers financially as well as in terms of the quality of work.” Understanding the human side of AI is just as important as the technology side. “Understanding that the tech is the easiest part of AI,” says Jana Eggers, CEO of Nara Logics. “The data and the results are both more critical. And those are both driven by the organization.”

Top emerging career choices in the AI field, are outlined in a report featuring Bethany Edmunds, associate dean and lead faculty in the computer science master’s program at Northeastern University:

Data analytics: “Data analysts need to have a solid understanding of the data itself—including the practices of managing, analyzing, and storing it—as well as the skills needed to effectively communicate findings through visualization.”

User experience (UX): “In terms of AI, a UX specialist’s responsibilities may include understanding how humans are interacting with these tools in order to develop functionality that better fits those humans’ needs down the line.”

Natural language processing: “Individuals in these roles will use their complex understanding of both language and technology to develop systems through which computers can successfully communicate with humans.”

Computer science and artificial intelligence research: “Individuals in these roles will work to uncover the possibilities of these technologies and then help implement changes in existing tools to reach that potential.”

Software engineering: “Software engineers are part of the overall design and development process of digital programs or systems. In the scope of AI, individuals in these roles are responsible for developing the technical functionality of the products which utilize machine learning to carry out a variety of tasks.”

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About Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is RTInsights Industry Editor. He is a regular contributor to Forbes on digital, cloud and Big Data topics. He served on the organizing committee for the recent IEEE International Conference on Edge Computing (full bio). Follow him on Twitter @joemckendrick.

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