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Employers willing to pay ‘premium’ for AI-skilled workers: AWS study

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Dive Brief:

  • Hiring workers with artificial intelligence skills is a priority for nearly three quarters (73%) of employers, but the majority of them are struggling to find such talent, according to a recent survey commissioned by Amazon Web Services.
  • Organizations indicated they would be willing to hike pay levels for AI-skilled workers across business functions, with salaries potentially rising by an average of 43% in sales and marketing; 42% in finance; 37% in legal, regulatory, and compliance; and 35% in human resources.
  • “The anticipated pay premiums across departments is because AI’s key benefits — automating tasks, boosting creativity, and improving outcomes — have dispersed applications across departments and tasks,” the report said. “Employers anticipate that workers with AI skills will be able to drive additional productivity and higher-quality work, which would command a salary increase.”

Dive Insight:

The Wall Street Journal reported in August that U.S. companies are in the midst of an “AI recruiting frenzy,” with some willing to pay salaries approaching seven figures to attract top talent. The article cited several examples, including an opening for a “senior manager of applied science and generative AI” at Amazon, with a potential salary of $340,300.

The Amazon Web Services survey found that 42% of employers are actively looking for people with AI development qualifications. Nearly three out of four (75%) of employers who consider hiring talent with AI skills to be a priority reported having difficulty finding qualified candidates.

Access Partnership, a technology-focused public policy consultant, conducted the study on behalf of AWS, polling 3,297 employees and 1,340 organizations across industries in the U.S.

Generative AI could enable automation of up to 70% of business activities across almost all occupations between now and 2030, adding trillions of dollars in value to the global economy, according to McKinsey.

For every $1 companies invest in AI, they are realizing an average of $3.50 in return, according to a recent study conducted by research firm IDC and sponsored by Microsoft, as previously reported by CFO Dive.

Strategies that companies are using to address the AI talent crisis include partnering with educational institutions and leveraging on-demand and gig workers, according to Betsy Summers, a principal analyst on the Future of Work team at market research firm Forrester. 

“Talent leaders are having to be creative about the sources of talent,” Summers said during an August podcast hosted by Forrester.

Earlier this month, Amazon reportedly began to eliminate several hundred roles in its Alexa division as part of a broader shift in priorities and a focus on developing new forms of AI. 

On the heels of that news, the company unveiled a new initiative aimed at providing free AI skills training and education to 2 million people globally by 2025. As part of the effort, the company announced that it was offering eight free courses to help adults strengthen their AI skills, as well as partnering with with online learning platform Udacity to provide scholarships valued at more than $12 million to more than 50,000 high school and university students from underserved and underrepresented communities globally.

In a similar move, Microsoft announced in October that it was launching a new initiative — including free coursework developed with LinkedIn — to help people globally with gaining AI skills. 

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