Artificial Intelligence

The intelligent choice in technology jobs

It started with cyber security but the skills shortage has spread to almost the entire IT sector, says Jason Walsh
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4 May 2022

A recent report published by IBM says that Europe’s tech sector is struggling to find employees with suitable skills. Just another day of the week, then? After all, the shortage of trained cyber security staff has been obvious for years, rising inexorably from 1 million unfilled positions as far back as 2013. 

Nor are there any signs of things getting better. A 2021 global study of cybersecurity professionals by Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) and industry analyst firm Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) found that the shortage was resulting in increased workloads with the resultant effect of burnout-induced resignations. Last year, vacancies were expected to hit 3.5 million worldwide, according to HP’s chief information security officer Joanna Burkey.

Lamentable, and something that the industry needs to address, sure, but not quite news? Maybe. Except for one minor fact: cyber security wasn’t the focus of IBM’s report.

 

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Instead, IBM said that the artificial intelligence (AI) sector was suffering from a skills shortage. Not only were jobs going unfilled, but advances in AI being slowed by the shortage, said the IBM report entitled Addressing the AI skills gap in Europe.

“It’s clear that the lack of skills and training could have a massive impact at a time of increasing global competition,” said Sharon Moore, global technical lead for government at IBM Technology, in a statement.

This includes Ireland. Aidan Connolly, chief executive of Dublin-based Idiro Analytics, said that AI and the wider area of analytics both suffered from an “acute shortage” of skilled people. 

“Also, we occasionally see people with AI and machine learning skills being under-utilised and doing more rudimentary work than what they trained for – this happens from time to time when companies over-estimate the complexity of their needs and they hire people who are over-qualified for the role,” he said in an e-mail to TechCentral.ie.

For his part, Connolly said that he would like to see faster processing of Critical Skills visas, but education also needed to be addressed.

When it comes to in-employment training in AI, IBM found Spain and Germany led the European pack. There is the risk of training too many people, of course, and simply cranking-out graduates with advanced degrees in AI may not be the ideal answer.

Connolly said that one answer was to integrate AI skills training into existing degree programmes so that it can be married to deep domain knowledge.

“[W]e believe that universities should consider having AI modules as part of other degree programmes – e.g. AI in business, AI in engineering, AI in medicine,  as it is only when AI is applied to specific industry problems that it becomes truly useful,” he said.

He has a point. To speak today of ‘IT’ or even ‘computing’ is often to speak too broadly. Instead of focussing on ‘tech skills’ or ‘STEM skills’, the real task is to identify society’s real needs and build an educated – and trained – workforce to address them.

In the meantime, though, if anyone is looking for a career change, AI could be the intelligent choice.

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