The rise of robots in Australian industry will be delayed -- because of a people shortage

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The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine dominance has been delayed in Australia.

The irony of building an industry to create autonomous machines to take on human roles is that the process needs a lot of skilled people.

And while there’s been a big increase in AI jobs in Australia over the last two years, there aren’t enough people to fill them, according to the world’s biggest job site Indeed.

The skills gap is growing. Over the last 12 months the number of AI roles in Australia has increased by of 306%.

But Indeed’s data also reveals there are almost twice as many AI jobs available as there are suitable applicants, with a ratio of 1.73 roles available per candidate searching in the last quarter.

Interest in AI roles has risen by 463% in the past two years, but not high enough to meet the seventeen-fold surge in postings.

This chart shows how demand for those with AI skills has risen but interest in roles hasn’t kept pace:

Research from Accenture shows that if Australian businesses were to embrace AI technologies the country could benefit from a $400 billion increase in GDP by 2035, increasing the annual economic growth rate from 2.2% to 3.7%.

“To put that another way, successful AI scaling will almost halve the time it takes for the Australian economy to double in size,” says a study by Accenture on the role of Artificial Intelligence.

“It’s a huge boost by any measure. However, it’s notable that Australia lags many of the world’s other leading economies in scaling the emerging technologies essential to AI adoption.”

According to Indeed, while AI job searches might be up 463% since 2015, 30% of those searches are being conducted offshore as Aussie talent looks for better career opportunities overseas.

Typical roles in AI include Machine Learning Engineers and Software Developers in areas as diverse as banking, universities and commerce. In most cases applicants require previous experience and a degree in a subject like maths or physics, although some may even have qualifications in machine learning.

But despite the sector paying well — the average annual salary for a Machine Learning Engineer is $122,566 — the availability of workers with suitable skills simply isn’t keeping up with demand.

Machine learning engineer jobs make up 42% of all AI searches in Australia while 29% of searches are looking for data scientist roles.

“Employers in every sector are keen to utilise artificial intelligence and need workers with the right skills to fill these roles,” says Chris McDonald, Managing Director, Australia and New Zealand for Indeed.

“Our data shows that competition for this shallow pool of candidates is fierce, with the numbers of available roles outstripping potential new hires.

“The AI sector is likely to keep growing as the potential for the widespread application of the technology, across different industries, becomes more clear. Investing in education and the right skills needed to propel the industry forward will be key to its growth in the coming years.”

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