A shortfall in qualified AI professionals may be a windfall for aspiring engineers.

What’s new: Hiring managers are struggling to find machine learning engineers amid an ongoing, global talent shortage, Business Insider reported. Some employers are going the extra mile to distinguish themselves from competitors in the eyes of potential employees.

Supply and demand: The number of new graduates with machine learning backgrounds is not keeping pace with demand for their skills.

  • “Five or so years ago, many companies were just scratching the surface of AI capabilities,” said Narek Verdian, chief technology officer at Barcelona-based Glovo, which makes a shopping app. “Now AI is ingrained in every industry and transforming the way we do things every day.”
  • The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the job market as many firms stopped hiring. Now they’re playing catch-up, said Kristianna Chung, head of data science at Harnham, a New York recruitment firm.
  • A wider range of applications than ever before can take advantage of machine learning, said Catherine Breslin, founder of the UK consultancy Kingfisher Labs. That’s stretching the pool of potential hires even thinner.
  • Candidates qualified for junior positions are as hard to find as those for more experienced roles, observed Angie Ma, co-founder of London software and consulting startup Faculty AI.

Fringe benefits: High demand for machine learning engineers is empowering qualified applicants to secure perks.

  • Machine learning engineers increasingly demand to work remotely as they take up residence outside of traditional tech centers. Yet salaries are still guided by the high cost of living in Silicon Valley, according to Breslin.
  • Candidates are asking for company details such as funding sources and growth plans from the beginning of the hiring process, Chung said.
  • Firms hoping to attract candidates and improve retention should allow their employees to publish research and take time off to pursue side projects, advised Joshua Saxe, chief scientist at UK software firm Sophos.

Behind the news: Recent studies confirm both the rising demand for machine learning engineers and the scarcity of qualified candidates.

  • A 2021 LinkedIn study found that machine learning engineer was the fourth fastest-growing job title in the U.S. between January 2017 and July 2021.
  • Shortage of talent is causing companies in a variety of industries to fall short of their automation goals, a 2020 Deloitte survey determined.
  • A 2020 report concluded that the scarcity of machine learning talent was behind an exodus of AI-focused professors from academia to industry between 2004 and 2018.

Why it matters: The hiring boom in machine learning and data science isn’t new, but it shows no sign of slowing and may be intensifying as the pandemic wanes. It’s a great time for candidates to approach employers and for academic institutions to meet rising demand with strong educational programs.

We’re thinking: The labor shortage is great for employees in the short term, but it also holds back AI development from reaching its full potential. It’s high time for everyone to build AI capacity, from individuals to businesses to institutions.

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