AI talent deficit and ways to close the gap

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is fast becoming a ubiquitous technology. This is not merely because of the buzz around it but because of its proven transformative power across different fields which has led to advances in precision medicine, self-driving cars, enhanced productivity, and the development of efficient warfare systems and so on.

As a leap-frog technology AI comes with enormous opportunities for all of us but there are several associated challenges too. One of these is the human talent deficit. This skill gap is indeed one of the barriers which is slowing advances in artificial intelligence.

AI is developed, deployed and implemented by humans to empower humans to be more efficient and productive. However, those who bring a high level of AI skill and talent with them are hard to find almost everywhere. But this is a much harder problem for governments than the private sector which offers really better pay and other perks to attract the best in the field.

This AI skill shortage is not limited to one country; rather this is a global phenomenon. There are various studies and reports which affirm the lack of supply. In order to reap significant benefits AI offers today and what it promises for tomorrow, there is a dire need to erase this demand-supply imbalance.

Apart from the shortage of talent, when it comes to recruitment of tech talent the government sector really struggles to be competitive in the market as it has to hunt top tech talent without top salary offers–a hard problem indeed. This is exactly one can gather from what Heather Durgin, chief of staff at the Department of Defense’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), said in a 2022 interview. After all, who would hate less bureaucracy and higher financial incentives?

“The human talent deficit is the government’s most conspicuous AI deficit and the single greatest inhibitor to buying, building, and fielding AI-enabled technologies for national security purposes. This is not a time to add a few new positions in national security departments and agencies for Silicon Valley technologists and call it a day. We need to build entirely new talent pipelines from scratch,” wrote Eric Schmidt, Chair and Bob Work, Vice Chair in a joint public letter, accompanying the launch of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) Final Report.

Now the question is: How to deal with the AI skills shortage? The report “Closing the AI skills gap” suggests a three-pronged approach to be followed to close the AI talent shortage. These recommendations are: ‘training staff in data and AI skills, infusing AI technologies to automate mundane tasks, freeing up human workers to upskill and using AI to streamline hiring.’

Among others, this report suggests partnership to bridge the gap and to open up new pathways. Nonetheless, what needs to be done is the cultivation of the AI workforce on an urgent basis to build the talent pipeline.

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