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Europe's tech sector struggles to find employees with AI skills

23% of tech recruiters are struggling to find applicants with the right soft skills, according to an IBM study

Europe’s tech sector is struggling to find employees with adequate AI knowledge or experience, according to a new report.

An IBM study was conducted between 23 March and 4 April among a sample of 500 tech job seekers, 300 tech employees, and 200 tech recruiters across the UK, Spain, and Germany. It found the skills deficit has the potential to stifle digital innovation and hold back economic growth.

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IBM said that although technical capabilities are vital for a career in AI, problem solving is considered the most critical soft skill needed for tech roles among all survey participants (37%), while 23% of tech recruiters have difficulty in finding applicants with this aptitude along with shortfalls in critical and strategic thinking.

40% of job seekers and employees also noted that software engineering and knowledge of programming languages are the most important technical capabilities for the AI/tech workforce to have.

When it comes to training, 42% of tech employees in Spain and Germany are given training opportunities on topics like programming languages, data engineering/analysis, and software engineering. For UK staff, however, only 32% received such training with 27% specifically focusing on software engineering, a key AI-related skill.

“It’s clear that the lack of skills and training could have a massive impact at a time of increasing global competition,” said Sharon Moore, global technical lead for government at IBM Technology. “The report showed that offering education and skills training is seen as a top priority for companies looking to improve AI recruitment in the future. As a result, we have already taken proactive steps to help applicants and employees enhance their AI skills.”

Moore added that advances in AI are being slowed by the shortage of workers with skills and experiences in areas the report sheds light on. However, she added that with the right training, education, and upskilling, AI can be leveraged to its full potential.

This comes after the UK government announced a £23 million investment last February into an initiative to encourage more people into the AI industry. The investment was set to create 2,000 scholarships for recent graduates in non-STEM fields to retrain through conversion masters courses focused on AI. 

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