Talent shortages in tech have long been an issue, owing to the fast growth of this industry. And with the unprecedented rise of the development and application of generative AI – even by the tech world's standard – this talent gap is widening even further.

A 2023 report from McKinsey looking at the technology trends ahead noted that, across 3.5 million job postings in these growth areas, "many of the skills in greatest demand have less than half as many qualified practitioners per posting as the global average".

And it's the field of applied AI that the global consultancy noted as the fastest-growing in job postings.

AI jobs in demand

This growth is no doubt a result of AI roles already seeing demand beyond the tech industry. Just as software developers and data scientists have branched out to find relevant positions in myriad sectors, so too has the AI specialist become a desired asset in many domains. And, in line with generative AI's record-breaking growth, the mainstreaming of AI roles has also come at a rapid clip.

According to a 2024 labor market intelligence report from TalentNeuron, AI practitioners are needed across sectors such as defense, biotech and pharma, manufacturing, and financial services.

Indeed, major defense players such as Lockheed Martin and Booz Allen Hamilton have long been active recruiters across tech roles, and AI skills are starting to be introduced to their wish lists, such as this Data Science role in San Antonio or this AI Internship in Colorado.

Sectors with a long history of leveraging data science and business intelligence will likely have in-house talent with transferable skills to take on new projects in AI, and the experience of these teams could be a magnet to attract new talent trying to find a foothold on this emerging career path.

This potential advantage will apply to companies across the life sciences industries, such as healthcare, pharma and biotech, as well as financial services, spanning banking, investment and insurance.

With a shortage of talent and a vast appetite for AI applications spanning a broad swathe of companies, those with the necessary skills will be in the enviable position of being able to pick and choose where they apply themselves. They can just as likely choose a career with Mastercard as with Microsoft to find opportunities to innovate in Automation. They can opt for the steady rhythm of a corporate giant or the challenging pace of start-up life, and everything in between. They may even decide to break out of the tech hubs of San Francisco and New York, where the cost of living is high, to find work with any number of non-tech companies elsewhere on the map.

AI specialists with frontier experience will be particularly valuable to companies seeking to leverage the opportunities this technology presents, and these old hands may want to try new challenges, and get creative. By all accounts, it's a competitive jobs market, so AI specialists can afford to be choosy.

What non-tech industries can offer to the most in-demand tech talent right now is job security. Tech is currently in a downturn and 2023 was a tough year for the sector.

The year ahead may be more stable, and while there's a huge appetite for AI hiring right now, what Big Tech and scaling startups in the sector have demonstrated is that their rush to fast growth can have repercussions down the line, impacting workers first and foremost.

Meanwhile, an analysis of data on layoffs from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Insurance, indicates that those other AI growth areas identified in TalentNeuron's report – banking, insurance, manufacturing and healthcare – have a steady outlook for 2024.

Professional and business services, in fact, outstrips most sectors for its predicted stability and all the major consultancies, such as Accenture and EY, need AI talent to help clients prepare for what's to come.

Get familiar with AI tools

One thing both the tech and non-tech companies in need of AI talent are likely to explore in 2024 is boosting these skills internally. Employees looking to stay ahead of the curve would be smart to keep up with the trends also.

The first order of business is to get familiar with the tools out there relevant to your industry. If you're in design, check out Midjourney and Stable Diffusion.

ChatGPT and various tools leveraging this technology can be used to assist with writing of any sort, be it an email, report or an essay, and the best way to discover its optimum application for you is to have a go – remembering, always, that these tools are not infallible and will still require your careful oversight and interrogation of their outputs.

As with any industry talent gap, AI's skills shortage has inspired a number of short skill-building courses to pop up. Search for those from trusted platforms or with industry-recognized accreditation and find time to learn about the core concepts such as large language models, algorithms and prompt engineering.

For example, MIT's Sloan School of Management and its Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have teamed up to create a six-week online course offering participants a conceptual understanding of AI technologies through a business lens.

This is just one among many opportunities out there to make 2024 the year of putting AI to work.