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AI skills in demand as companies develop 2024 hiring plans for Canada

As Canadian companies gear up for hiring in 2024, one skill stands out among the rest: artificial intelligence (AI). In the ever-intensifying global race to leverage AI, tech experts in Canada emphasize the crucial need for individuals who can either develop AI-based products or employ them to enhance operational efficiency.

Jenny Yang, a senior advisor at Toronto's MaRS innovation hub, notes the widespread demand for individuals well-versed in AI applications. Companies are actively seeking professionals who can directly utilize AI tools like the ChatGPT chatbot or hire data scientists to construct AI products.

Recent job postings provide a snapshot of this demand. Porter Airlines, based in Toronto, sought an AI engineer to tackle complex problems, while Johnson & Johnson looked for a senior data scientist to stay at the forefront of AI. Yelp, Keurig Dr Pepper Canada, and others have also posted openings for roles like senior machine learning engineer and associate data scientist, specifically emphasizing skills in AI.

Generative AI, a subtype of machine learning capable of producing text, images, and other content, has gained significant traction since the release of ChatGPT in November 2022. This surge has prompted various companies, from industry giants like Qualcomm and J.D. Power to startups, universities, and law firms, to actively recruit individuals proficient in AI and machine learning.

Despite this, the impact of AI on hiring is believed to be far from reaching its peak. A recent analysis by employment search website Indeed revealed that generative AI was mentioned in only 0.07% of Canadian job postings at the end of November. However, the demand for machine learning engineers, considered the quintessential AI job, saw a mention of generative AI in 17% of postings, indicating a growing trend.

Experts like Alik Sokolov, CEO of Montreal-based AI company Responsibli, and Jenny Yang suggest a shifting landscape in hiring criteria. Data scientists with AI skills are now more sought after, although developers are increasingly expected to leverage tools for AI development.

Sokolov anticipates a different mix of skills in 2024 compared to the past, signaling a dynamic evolution in the field. The availability of improved tools has enabled traditional software engineers to contribute to AI product development.

While some predict the rise of roles like chief AI officers and prompters – professionals instructing AI systems – others view prompter jobs as short-lived. Sokolov and Yang argue that prompt engineering can be easily integrated into various roles with minimal training.

Despite Canada's reputation as an AI leader, there is concern about a brain drain as top data scientists head to the U.S. for better opportunities and higher salaries. Amazon and other tech giants are known to offer salaries as high as $500,000 annually for skilled AI professionals. This poses a challenge for Canadian companies to compete in attracting and retaining top AI talent.

As the Canadian job market evolves, the demand for AI skills continues to shape the workforce, challenging individuals to adapt to the dynamic landscape of technological innovation and artificial intelligence.



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