Companies in China are investing millions of yuan to develop AI, but they are hampered by a lack of trained, qualified personnel, according to a white paper released last Friday at the Meet 2020 Smart Future Conference in Beijing.
The paper, jointly released by global intelligence firm International Data Corporation and technology media portal Qbitai.com, is reportedly the first extensive study carried out on the state of AI in the country. It found that although 73 percent of companies have implemented multiple AI applications, over 60 percent of the survey’s respondents also said that it was difficult or extremely difficult to do so, and 51.7 percent said that the greatest challenge they faced was the lack of qualified personnel.
This shortage of talent in the world’s second largest AI market is not a new development. In 2017, Chinese firms, finding personnel scarce at home, were already gearing up to raid Silicon Valley for AI talent. And by 2018, AI engineers in China could reportedly command higher salaries than their Silicon Valley counterparts.
This year, the Spring 2019 Recruitment Season Talent Trend Report by China recruitment consultancy BossZhiPin found that out of the top 15 skillsets most in demand this year, six were AI-related. The demand for IoT engineers in particular had increased by 46 percent year-on-year, with salaries in the field shooting up to RMB18,132 (US$2,576). This is nearly three times the national average.
Students in China are certainly attracted to the pay. A May 2019 survey by China Youth Daily found that 78 percent of respondents were keen on working in the sector, and almost as many (74 percent) were optimistic about the prospects. Whether or not Chinese schools can turn out the needed graduates at a fast enough pace to meet companies’ needs, however, remains to be seen.