Don’t Fall Victim to the UK’s AI Skills Gap

May 20, 2024

The UK’s artificial intelligence (AI) economy is booming [1]. We recently reported that UK startups specialising in AI raised £3.5 billion in funding in 2023. Depending on the report you read, the UK’s AI industry is either worth £16.9 billion (US International Trade Administration) or £10 billion (Statista). Whatever data you pay attention to most, the reality is that the UK’s AI sector is buoyant and, importantly, growing. Indeed, as noted in the US International Trade Administration’s report, the number of UK AI companies has increased by 688% over the last 10 years. Moreover, by 2035, analysts expect the market’s value to reach £803 billion.

AI Market is Booming, but Issues Are Looming

The market’s buoyancy makes it a great time for businesses with interests in AI or entrepreneurs looking to jump on the bandwagon. What’s interesting to note is the potential skill gap that’s developing. The market as a whole is growing, which means the number of jobs in AI is increasing. However, a survey by Microsoft found that there might not be enough homegrown talent to sustain the current rate of growth.

As noted in the 2020 report, the “UK suffers from lower AI maturity, adoption levels, and skills within the workforce”. This conclusion is based on the fact that 35% of UK business leaders surveyed believe there will be an AI skill gap within the next two years. 28% of those surveyed said their businesses already had a skills gap. That survey is now four years old, but the issue of a skills gap still looms large. That’s why Microsoft launched an AI Skills Challenge in 2023 [2]. The aim is to help 1 million people “gain the AI skills they need to start, or move into, a career in technology”.

Look Overseas for AI Talent

That’s Microsoft’s two-year plan, but what about the here and now? How can businesses within AI fill the skills gap? A tried and tested strategy within the technology sector is foreign recruitment. Any companies considering this strategy need qualified immigration solicitors. For example, Samsung has hired the firm Reiss Edwards to handle the legal side of its recruitment in the UK. 

Legally, there’s no requirement to use a law firm when it comes to international recruitment. Practically, however, it’s a necessity. As a business owner, you can’t simply recruit people from overseas. You need to have a sponsor licence, which is something you can only get after passing a variety of government checks. After that, you can only hire people with the relevant visas. These visas, such as the UK Skilled Worker visa, have different requirements and standards. Knowing all the different requirements isn’t easy, which is why businesses such as Samsung enlist the services of experts.

Put Yourself in a Position to Ride the AI Rush

If you can do this, a world of opportunities opens up. The US is well-known for producing top-tier tech talent. This is particularly true in the AI age. Other countries worth scouring for talent are India, Canada, Singapore, Israel, and Poland. All of these countries are tech hubs, which means they’re filled with both homegrown and international talent. Therefore, if you’re looking to grow as a company, they’re great places to look.

It’s a great time for AI companies, but only those with the right resources can take advantage of it. People from overseas will want to work in the UK because the AI industry is booming. However, you’ll only be able to hire them if your business is equipped to do it. That’s why legal experts are non-negotiable. The data suggests there’s a skills gap in the market, so don’t let your business fall behind by not taking the necessary steps to recruit talent from overseas.

Further Reading

1. UK AI startups are booming

2. Microsoft’s commitment to digital skills