It’s probably not a stretch to say we are facing a looming job crisis — one that only has the potential to become worse as in the next decade, as automation becomes the biggest disruptor of jobs in traditional industries.
But with disruption comes opportunity. According to the job search website Indeed.com, there has been a 500 percent increase in the number of job postings in the field of artificial intelligence from June 2015 to June 2017.
While the absolute numbers might not be large (34 to 202 jobs in Canada), the growth trajectory is significant. Considering the potential for the widespread use of AI across many industries, there is a strong possibility that this field will be a substantial contributor to economic growth for the next little while, says Daniel Culbertson, an economist with Indeed.com.
Data from Indeed.com also found that Toronto has emerged as a hub for AI jobs, with 37 percent of all AI opportunities concentrated in Canada’s biggest city.
The most likely explanation for this is Geoffrey Hinton — computer scientist extraordinaire, and creator of a strain of artificial intelligence called neural networks which basically sets up computer systems to mimic the human brain. Hinton is a Professor Emeritus based at the University of Toronto’s Department of Computer Science, where he is also the director of a new AI lab called the Vector Institute, one that has seized the attention of global venture capitalists.
So what exactly do you have to major in to be able to gain access to to an industry with possibly the biggest job growth potential? Computer science, with a focus on machine learning engineering, for starters. It’s basically a more complex version of software engineering — you build algorithms and make sure they work reliably and quickly on a piece of software.
According to Indeed.com, 61 percent of the job postings in the AI industry were for machine learning engineers. 10 percent were for data scientists and only 3 percent were for software developers.
Interest in AI-related jobs has also grown exponentially in the last two years, which is a positive sign considering the growing skills gap problem in the Canadian labour force (too many graduates in fields with too few jobs). Searches for AI and machine learning jobs have apparently soared by 293 percent since June 2015.
And what’s even more interesting is the kind of companies that are hiring machine learning experts. You don’t have to work at a startup to be part of the AI revolution; banks and insurance companies are increasingly piling up on machine learning talent, fearing an impending existential crisis in their current business models.
A simple search on LinkedIn, fast-becoming the go-to online centre for job postings, yielded 679 jobs in Canada in machine learning. The top two job postings were BMO Financial Group recruiting a machine learning specialist, and accounting firm Ernst & Young for a research scientist in machine learning.