Canadian companies are gearing up for their 2024 hiring plans, and one skill stands out as a top priority: artificial intelligence (AI). Members of Canada’s tech community emphasize the critical need to find individuals who can develop AI-based products or utilize AI to enhance operational efficiency. This heightened demand is fueled by the intensifying global race to harness the power of AI.
Jenny Yang, a senior advisor at the MaRS innovation hub in Toronto, highlights the significance of AI skills in today’s job market. She mentions that companies are actively seeking candidates with expertise in using AI, whether it’s for implementing AI chatbots like ChatGPT or building AI products.
Diverse job postings reflect the AI boom
Job postings across various industries reflect the surge in AI-related roles. For instance, Porter Airlines recently sought an AI engineer in Toronto to tackle complex problems, while pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson looked for a senior data scientist to stay at the forefront of artificial intelligence. Additionally, Keurig Dr Pepper Canada aimed to hire an associate data scientist in Montreal with a specific interest in artificial intelligence.
Many of these positions focus on generative AI, a subset of machine learning capable of producing text, images, and other content. The popularity of generative AI has skyrocketed since the release of ChatGPT in November 2022. This innovative chatbot spurred tech giants like Google and Microsoft to ramp up their AI efforts, inspiring companies of all sizes to explore AI’s transformative potential.
Generative AI’s expanding footprint in job listings
Indeed, an employment search website, reported that generative AI was mentioned in 0.07% of Canadian job postings by the end of November. Notably, 17% of machine learning engineer postings and 5% of data scientist positions specifically referenced generative AI. Brendon Bernard, senior economist at Indeed, predicts that generative AI’s presence in job postings will continue to grow and expand into more diverse roles.
Alik Sokolov, co-founder and CEO of Montreal-based AI company Responsibli, observes a shift in hiring criteria as more companies embrace AI. He notes that data scientists with AI skills are increasingly sought after, but even traditional software engineers are now expected to work with AI tools, thanks to the availability of improved resources.
Sokolov emphasizes that candidates no longer need to be hardcore research data scientists with Ph.D. degrees, reflecting the evolving nature of AI roles. This shift democratizes AI development and allows professionals from various backgrounds to contribute to AI projects.
Future trends in AI hiring
Rob Toews, a partner at AI-focused venture capital firm Radical Ventures, predicts that chief AI officers will become a staple in large enterprises in 2024. Moreover, there’s a growing interest in “prompters,” professionals trained to provide instructions to AI systems to elicit desired responses. However, Sokolov and Yang believe that prompter jobs may be short-lived, as individuals from diverse backgrounds can easily be trained to integrate prompting into their work.
Sokolov emphasizes that Responsibli isn’t seeking full-time prompt engineers but expects prompt engineering to become a skill shared by all employees to varying degrees. His company is in the process of hiring a vice-president of AI to manage technology risks and several data scientists who will take on prompt engineering responsibilities.
Canada’s standing in the AI landscape
Canada has long been recognized as a leader in the field of AI. A September study from Deloitte reveals that Canada ranks third among G7 countries in per capita venture capital investments in AI, trailing only the U.S. and the U.K. Furthermore, Canada boasts the highest five-year average year-over-year growth rate in AI talent concentration among G7 nations, according to the report.
Despite Canada’s AI prowess, there’s a noticeable brain drain of top data scientists heading to the United States, drawn by better financial incentives and a wider range of opportunities. Tech giants like Amazon are willing to pay top AI data scientists up to $500,000 annually.
The demand for AI skills in Canada is on the rise, with companies from diverse industries seeking talent to leverage AI’s capabilities. This trend is transforming the job market, making AI skills a valuable asset for professionals in various fields. As AI continues to play a central role in business and innovation, candidates with AI expertise will remain highly sought after.