Employers value AI skills

Employers value AI skills -Recruitment companies will be looking for competent Candidates

Many jobs focus on generative artificial intelligence, a type of machine learning that can generate text, images and other content. (Photo: ThisisEngineering RAEng for Unsplash)

Toronto — Recruitment companies will be looking for competent candidates in a strategic area: artificial intelligence (AI).

Finding professionals who can develop AI-based products or use them to increase productivity is a priority for technology organizations as the race to harness AI heats up.

“Everyone is looking for people who understand how to use AI,” says Jenny Yang, senior advisor at MaRS, a Toronto-based innovation center that helps startups manage the challenges of growing their businesses and marketing their products.

“Some companies want to use ChatGPT (an AI chatbot) themselves… and then there are companies that are actually looking to hire data scientists to build AI products.”

For example, a look at job listings shows that Porter Airlines recently sought an AI engineer in Toronto “to solve a wide range of complex problems” and that pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson wanted to hire an experienced data scientist to “stay at the forefront of AI.”

Many jobs focus on generative artificial intelligence, a type of machine learning that can generate text, images and other content. The popularity of this form of artificial intelligence has exploded since the November 2022 release of ChatGPT, an OpenAI conversational agent that can quickly transform simple responses to requests into text.

The arrival of ChatGPT started a race between tech giants, including Google and Microsoft, and inspired other companies to think about how this technology could change their business.

Jobs viewed now show that many employers, including large corporations, startups, universities, and law firms, have solicited applications for interns, consultants, engineers, scientists, and writers with AI and machine learning skills.

The impact of AI on recruitment is still far from peaking. Job search website Indeed found that generative artificial intelligence was mentioned in 0.07% of Canadian job postings at the end of November.

However, 17% of job postings for machine learning engineers, specifically what Indeed calls “major AI jobs,” and 5% of data scientist jobs mention generative AI.

In job postings for computer engineers and general developers, the term is popping up more and more, notes Brendon Bernard, Chief Economist at Indeed.

“I’d be surprised if (mentioning generative artificial intelligence in job ads) wasn’t even more common,” he said.

Alik Sokolov, co-founder and CEO of Montreal-based AI investment management company Responsibli, noted that more companies have become interested in AI in the past year, which affects some of the criteria companies require when hiring.

“I think the skills in demand will be very different for someone looking for a job in 2024 than, say, me who started my career around 2013…” notes Mr. Sokolov.

“Just looking at my resume, when I was hired at Deloitte, I wouldn’t be hired at Deloitte or Responsibli today. The bar is higher.”

Mr. Sokolov and Ms. Yang agree that data scientists with expertise in AI are more in demand these days, although developers are expected to be able to use AI.

“You don’t have to be a specialist with a doctorate anymore,” Ms. Yang replies. I think even five years ago this was a more common request.

“Now you’re seeing more and more traditional software engineers building AI products, thanks to the availability of increasingly capable tools.”

Rob Toews, a partner at AI firm Radical Ventures, predicts that AI experts will find their way into senior management at large companies. Others believe that the writing profession will experience a boom. These professionals are trained to give instructions to AI systems to get the desired and most effective responses.

Mr. Sokolov and Ms. Yang agree that the copywriting craze may be short-lived, as workers from a variety of backgrounds can easily learn to incorporate this expertise into their work with a little training or experimentation.

“We’re not looking for a full-time copywriter, but copywriting is something that almost everyone in our company does to varying degrees,” notes Mr. Sokolov.

A September study by Deloitte found that in an analysis of AI venture capital investment per capita, Canada ranked third among G7 countries, behind the United States and the United Kingdom.

Over five years, Canada also saw the highest average growth rate of any G7 country in the concentration of AI talent between 2017 and last year, the report said.

However, Yang says she has recently seen some of the data scientists leave Canada for the United States.

“There’s just more money, more opportunity, so we’re seeing a brain drain of AI talent,” he complains, noting that Amazon and other big tech companies can pay $500,000 a year to recruit top AI data scientists.

“Big companies (in Canada) need to have the means to recruit talent when demand is high.”

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