Demand for data scientists – and other IT professionals with AI and machine learning skills – has soared nine-fold in the UK in just four years, according to a new report by recruiters Robert Walters and lead generation firm Vacancysoft.
The specialist recruiter said it has seen demand for AI professionals increase from a humble 445 in 2015, to over 4,000 in 2019.
With many enterprises still laying the groundwork for AI – in terms of cleaning and collating data – demand for IT professionals dedicated to data management represented the fastest growing gap in the recruitment market.
This was particularly pronounced in large or global entities, where the number of vacancies for data engineer roles increased ten-fold in three years.
Such roles are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to AI-triggered labour market disruption: data management roles aside, the broader impact looks set to be significant.
A report by the World Economic Forum in 2018 estimated that AI-powered machines and algorithms will create 133 million new jobs by the year 2020, and displace 75 million jobs over that same time period.
Where is Demand for AI Professionals Strongest?
The industries investing the most in AI technologies may surprise readers.
According to an earlier report from CMS Wire, the industry investing the most into AI is the agricultural sector.
This comes as agriculture is experiencing acute labour shortages, with automation an increasingly attractive option as a result, despite associated capex issues.
Call centres and customer experience run second and third as the areas in which most AI funding is being invested, with oil and gas, and healthcare respectively fourth and fifth.
Investment flows are also soaring: as Will Tanner, director of consultancy Onward notes in a new report published with Atos this week: “AI now attracts $27 billion of venture capital and 30,000 published patent applications a year, up 400% and 3000% respectively compared to a decade ago.
A report commissioned by French-based IT service firm Atos, meanwhile, is a reminder that there remains widespread public distrust of machine learning and AI technologies.
Some of this mistrust stems from the fact that the industry has not really defined artificial intelligence. Machine learning and AI are terms that are, often erroneously, interchanged on a daily basis. Distrust is also further compounded by a belief in lack of accountability, the report notes, calling for clearer regulatory guidelines.
(In popular culture meanwhile, AI is seen less as content-optimising algorithms to offer users the best Netflix recommendation; more killer robot, a la ex_machina.)
The result is a serious opportunity being missed to put data to work, including in the third-sector. As Atos’ report notes: “There is widespread fear amongst charities and civil society groups concerning how they can use personal data for fundraising, leading to low uptake of AI in the sector.
“In failing to put in place a reasonable framework for AI, we risk deterring institutions from collecting and using data for good causes or beneficial aims.”
According to the British Academy around up to 30 percent of jobs in the
UK are highly automatable and may be disrupted by the rise of AI.