Two new reports reveal that AI skills are in high demand – but the human touch is needed more than ever.
The rise of generative AI has created a great deal of anxiety for software engineers and hiring managers as they consider the implications these tools will have on their careers. AI is already shifting both what skills are in demand and how developers are expected to do their jobs. The rapid rise of generative AI also coincides with a period of sustained layoffs across the industry, exacerbating any uncertainty in the hiring market.
Published this month, two new reports from recruitment specialists highlight the changing demand for AI skills, sentiment around tools that can help boost productivity, and the reasons why good leadership is more important than ever as the technology foundations shift under our feet.
AI skills can get you in the door
Possessing skills associated with artificial intelligence and machine learning makes you a hot commodity on the job market, according to tech recruitment specialist Hired’s 2023 State of Tech Salaries report. There has been a 21% year-over-year increase in demand for AI professionals on its platform in 2023. As the number of workers with those skills isn’t rising quickly enough to meet this demand, engineers who already have these skills can write their own tickets.
Engineers aren’t just expected to understand how the AI works though, but to use it in their day-to-day tasks to increase their productivity. An experienced engineer's ability to understand and describe business problems isn’t something generative AI can replicate. In fact, that sort of understanding is necessary for crafting the right prompts to get useful output from these tools.
Without proper domain knowledge, focusing AI on a task is difficult or impossible. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Hired's analysis shows that experienced engineers with the ability to quickly solve problems still garner the highest salaries, and that demand for engineering management remains strong.
However, while demand for senior-level tech workers is up, the market for junior talent is as tough as it has ever been, prompting many to ask: where will the next generation of leaders come from?
The 2023 Tech Hiring Trends Report from technical interviewing company Karat and Harris Poll found that while AI skills are undeniably in demand for entry-level tech workers, full-stack engineers and other software generalists are in the highest demand. These are the types of candidates who can fulfill a variety of roles as business needs quickly shift.
Karat also found that many companies are still discouraging the use of AI during the interview process, even when they expect candidates to use AI tools in their day-to-day work. Many of the problems posed in technical interviews are designed so that candidates can show off their core skill set and how they think and approach technical problems. Generative AI can support that process in practice, but is no substitute for upper-level thinking.
Both of these reports highlight that despite AI’s promise, the human touch is still very much required. That being said, employees and employers appear to be on a collision course when it comes to how much AI could impact their roles. Hired found that 87% of surveyed job candidates don't see AI as the primary threat to their roles today, but nearly half of employers think that they’ll be able to leverage AI tools to reduce headcount at their firms by 2029. One side has to be wrong.