As more businesses recognize the efficiency value that artificial intelligence (AI) brings, more companies are scrambling to fill AI-based roles. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough people to fill all these open roles.

More than half of businesses have already implemented AI within their organizations, and yet 80 percent of machine learning engineers with PhDs work for Google or Facebook. This situation is clearly unsustainable, especially when you consider that by 2019, 10 percent of all IT hires in customer service will write scripts for bot interactions, according to Gartner. By 2020, 20 percent of companies will have dedicated workers monitoring and guiding neural networks, also according to Gartner.

As the need to fill AI jobs intensifies over the coming years, the talent shortage may only grow more severe.

A Small and Expensive Stack of Resumes

The number of AI-related job postings has increased 119 percent over the last three years, according to Indeed. However, candidate searches for AI positions have not seen a comparable increase in frequency. This suggests a significant lack of candidates for AI positions, and those who do apply have very high expectations. This situation puts massive pressure on smaller businesses with less money to offer talent, as they struggle to compete with tech giants who can afford to meet AI talent’s high demands.

Computer science and technology education — or the lack thereof — play a role in sparseness of AI talent. Computer science does not even rank among the top five most popular majors at US colleges and universities.

Starting Small to Achieve AI Goals

Until recently, only the tech giants had access to AI. Now, however, organizations of all sizes are finding ways to integrate AI into their strategies. Of course, the success of an AI strategy depends on having the talent to execute the strategy. While such talent is scarce, there are a few steps your organization can take to locate the AI skills it needs:

1. Create an AI Mindset Through Small, Low-Stakes Tasks

The first step in finding AI talent is convincing the organization to adopt an AI-oriented mindset. To do so, company leaders should identify lower-stakes internal processes where everyone could benefit from automation, such as weekly check-ins on standing projects. Automating simple administrative workflows and similar tasks doesn’t require a computer science degree, but it still demonstrates how AI can benefit employee productivity. These simple benefits are often enough to get stakeholders on board with more significant investment in recruiting AI talent.

2. Promote AI Education 

In the world of college athletics, it isn’t uncommon for teams to scout middle and high school students for future talent. Business should adopt a similar approach to AI recruiting.

Younger generations have a leg up, having grown up with automation and robotics. By partnering with local schools and programs, businesses can help raise awareness about AI careers and offer hands-on training for young students. This allows a company to build strong relationships with people who will go on to become the most qualified candidates.

3. Develop Hands-On Training for Current Employees

While recruiting young students is a solid long-term plan, it doesn’t close the skills gap in the here and now. To meet today’s demand for AI talent, companies can train or retrain their current engineers and programmers, all of whom are already competent in the necessary prerequisites for an AI career.

The AI talent drought isn’t likely to break any time soon, but this doesn’t mean companies should give up on the AI-based solutions that can make them more efficient and competitive. Instead, organizations need to start small and work their way up, implementing realistic strategies today to provide a solid framework for meeting tomorrow’s needs.

Antonis Papatsaras is CTO of SpringCM.

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