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Does not compute – making sense of the AI skills gap

Thursday 19 July 2018

Whether you think it’ll lead to utopia or dystopia, general consensus is that AI is going to play a major role in our future. This future, however, may be slow to materialise if we don’t bone up on our AI skills.

With all the potential of AI (and no little media hype) there’s a voracious appetite from businesses for AI experts, so why aren’t more developers jumping at the chance to get involved in the tech that’ll turn them into a golden goose?

A recent EY poll is quite telling. 53% of respondents blame a lack of AI insight in business practices, while 48% point to lack of managerial understanding of the technology. In other words, the men and women at the top of the business have bought into the hype of AI, but haven’t really thought through the strategy.

If we want developers to start investing their time in AI, business leaders need to be able to express a clear vision of what they want to get out of it. Reading Artificial Intelligence For Dummies is not going to be sufficient to begin practicing it in earnest, and developers need more of a steer on what aspects of AI will be most useful to learn before they make that time investment.  

Speaking of learning, if we’re to successfully raise the next generation of AI talent, we need to first have its place cemented in industry. Universities are not in the business of focusing heavily on tech fads, preferring to arm their students with useful, proven skill sets. The shifting sands of AI’s implementation will have to settle before more robust AI course appear in University prospectuses.  

Ironically, the businesses that are worried about the AI skills gap have no small responsibility in the matter. They need to better understand the tech, and provide a clear roadmap otherwise they’re unlikely to get buy-in from developers.