83% of U.K. Businesses Increasing Wages for AI Skills

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The majority of U.K. businesses are willing to offer higher wages to candidates with skills in AI, a new report has found. Hiring managers will pay 45% more on average for those with demonstrable expertise in areas like natural language processing, AI content creation and chatbot development.

However, the necessary AI skills are hard to come by, with more than 40% of business leaders saying they cannot find the right skills they need in full-time employees. The results, published in Fiverr’s 2024 U.K. Workforce Index, come from a survey of 2,200 U.K. business decision-makers, knowledge workers and freelancers.

“The high demand for these specialised Al skills is driving companies to take proactive measures to attract and retain talent,” the authors wrote.

Nearly half of respondents to the Fiverr study said low-skilled talent in general was their number one barrier to hiring. The top skill missing from the U.K. workforce is AI, cited by 32%, with social media dropping into third place from 2023.

What are the most in-demand AI skills?

The most commonly sought after AI skills are AI content creation and ChatGPT, which were needed by 35% and 32% of respondents, respectively. Other in-demand skills include AI chatbot building (29%), proficiency with the AI image generator Midjourney (25%) and AI image processing (21%).

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The authors wrote: “The demand for Al skills is a testament to the accelerating pace of technological advancement. The notable willingness of companies to offer substantial pay raises for Al expertise highlights the pivotal role these skills play in driving innovation and maintaining a competitive edge.

“This willingness to invest in Al talent reflects a broader recognition of the transformative potential of Al technologies across various industries. Companies that prioritise the development and integration of Al capabilities are likely to lead in innovation and efficiency, setting benchmarks for the future of work.”

According to Donal McMahon, vice president of data science at the job site Indeed, the demand for AI skills is being echoed globally, too. Earlier this year, he told TechRepublic that companies around the world “are all searching for employees who know AI and can adapt to new and emerging technologies.”

The lack of AI skills holds the U.K. economy back

The report’s results support the recent finding that the U.K. trails behind the rest of Europe in technical skills proficiency. A Microsoft report also calculated that adding five years onto the time it takes to roll out AI in the country could reduce its economic impact in 2035 by more than £150 billion.

A lack of digital skills was cited in the Microsoft report as one of the primary factors holding back U.K. businesses from digitisation. In fact, 40% of businesses reported finding it difficult to recruit staff with good digital skills, leading to slower deployment of new technology.

Considering the government’s significant investments into digital skills, the U.K.’s lack of digital proficiency suggests that current efforts may need to be reassessed, and higher wages for those with AI expertise could encourage workers to upskill.

SEE: The 10 Best AI Courses in 2024

According to the U.K. government, the country’s AI sector already employs more than 50,000 people and contributes more than £3.7 billion to the economy every year. By 2035, the U.K. AI market is forecast to grow to more than $1 trillion.

The Department for Education recently found that between 10 and 30% of jobs could be automated using AI, so bringing in employees who can implement this automation could have a huge impact on business efficiency and revenue.

Why is there an AI skills shortage in the UK?

The level of “skills-shortage vacancies,” where a job cannot be filled due to a lack of skills, qualifications or experience among applicants, is very high in the information and communications sector in the U.K., which encompasses AI. The figure climbed from an already high 25% in 2017 to 43% in 2022, the last year for which data is available.

SEE: Top IT Skills Trends in the U.K. for 2024

In 2023, Red Hat surveyed IT managers in large U.K.-based enterprises about why teams were struggling with a skills shortage, and the top three reasons were:

  • High workloads preventing people from finding the time to upskill.
  • The lack of budget for training, upskilling or recruitment.
  • Teams working in silos, preventing cross-team learning opportunities.

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