Exclusive IBM study German skilled workers: no idea about AI
Everyone uses them, all the time. But even in the IT industry, few really understand how artificial intelligence works – especially in Germany. And that is increasingly becoming a competitive disadvantage.
A lack of artificial intelligence (AI) skills is holding back companies in Europe. They are not just looking for IT experts in general. The staff that is there knows too little about AI. This is the result of a study commissioned by the IT group IBM. Seven out of ten job seekers and tech workers believe that many workers in their country do not have the skills needed for the AI industry.
Everyone encounters AI every day, when shopping online, in the application process and in apps. It can help companies to produce more efficiently and save costs. But very few penetrate the technology, says Patricia Neumann, who is responsible for data and AI in the economic area of Europe, the Middle East and Africa at IBM. Companies have long since recognized how important training and further education are "if they don't want to be left behind". But that doesn't change the huge gap between supply and demand: While three quarters of tech recruiters are looking for graduates with an AI degree, only 15 percent of job seekers actually have an advanced university degree in AI. There are even fewer among those who are already employed.
In the global competition for digital innovations, says Neumann, companies could hardly afford such "qualification gaps". Nearly 30 percent of recruiters surveyed in Germany, the UK and Spain are struggling to find candidates with experience in deep learning and machine learning, and skills in data engineering and analytics. The talent pool for these disciplines is limited and therefore in high demand. In Germany, there is a lack of experts for machine learning in a country comparison. More than a third of recruiters in Germany are desperately looking for workers with the appropriate experience. In the UK it is 23 percent.
Neumann was surprised "that little importance is attached to soft skills". Above all, she means “an understanding of business models and companies as well as the ability to think in complex contexts”. But this is “absolutely necessary in addition to the technical ones”.
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For this reason, Neumann also believes that training at universities can be expanded. Many are "technologically much more broadly positioned", but by no means in all disciplines. Because according to their understanding, AI should also appear in curricula that do not have an IT focus, such as law or medicine, but everywhere where AI applications are conceivable. A colleague of hers is a guest lecturer in law at the University of Tübingen.
Explain to the children, "What happens when you go to your For You page?"
Neumann demands that universities should become much more interdisciplinary and variable. It must be allowed “to give up modules and add new ones during the course of study. After all, interests and priorities can change in five years.”
In order to sensitize children to AI – and perhaps to get them excited about working in the field later – the IBM expert wants to start even earlier: in elementary schools. "We have to raise awareness of AI very early on," says Neumann, calling for government investment. When the first smartphones appeared in third grade, “we should explain to the children: what happens when you go to your “For You” page? You see one profile after the other, you need passwords everywhere – how does that work in the background?"
Out of sheer altruism, IBM did not commission the study. Knowledge is power – and at least in this case a reliable profit maker. IBM, Microsoft, Facebook and others make a lot of money with AI products. But Neumann emphasizes that IBM wants to make its own technology as transparent as possible. It offers the right courses and services. According to Neumann, it is not just about the AI applications themselves, but about ways to make the AI understandable for the general public.
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