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Lower level of developer skills may hamper UK AI initiatives

A study from IBM has found there is less focus on training software engineers in the UK compared with Spain and Germany

A study carried out by Morning Consult on behalf of IBM has found that training in the UK is falling behind in terms of software engineering to support artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives.

According to IBM, as AI moves into the mainstream, specialist tech staff are working more closely than ever with business managers.

To secure the best possible outcomes, the soft skills of interpersonal communication, strategic problem solving and critical thinking are required across all disciplines.

Along with soft skills, the survey, conducted among a sample of 500 tech job seekers, 300 tech employees and 200 tech recruiters in the UK, Spain and Germany reported that 40% of tech job seekers and employees say that software engineering and knowledge of programming languages are the most important technical capabilities for the AI/tech workforce to have. Demonstrating these skills can greatly improve employability and career developments in AI.

In Spain and Germany (42%), IT staff are given training opportunities on topics including programming languages, data engineering and analysis, and software engineering.

However, just 32% of UK staff receive AI training, with 27% specifically focusing on software engineering, a key AI-related skill.

The survey, which is published in IBM’s Addressing the AI skills gap in Europe report, also found that although technical capabilities are vital for a career in the sector, problem solving is considered the most critical soft skill needed for tech roles among all survey participants (up to 37%). However, around a quarter of tech recruiters (23%) have difficulty finding applicants with this aptitude along with shortfalls in critical and strategic thinking.

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According to IBM, demonstrating soft skills can greatly improve employability and career developments in AI.

“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.”

Moore believes the growing importance of AI across industries should provide ample scope for tech sector growth, but warned: “Unfortunately, a shortage of AI skills means that these opportunities can be hard to seize. There’s a clear and disadvantageous gap in the education syllabus, so for now, in-house training from big tech companies needs to be prioritised.”

IBM offers free training, called SkillsBuild, to help people gain the skills needed to develop and build AI-based business applications.

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