Quantum computing could be the future. But, will quantum computing groups be able to contend with the quantum skills shortage?

Quantum companies state that one of the most substantial upcoming challenges emerges  from the need to bring in the right talent. In looking at the job descriptions for quantum computing roles, the specifics sound relatively ordinary. The roles and responsibilities appear to align with those of systems architects, software engineers and data analysts. This is a group well-known for abilities to build and analyze smartphones, supercomputers and other impressive, commercial tech innovations.

However, the skills and experiences honed in systems architect and similar roles do not effectively correspond to the needs within the quantum computing sector. Quantum computing devices diverge from classical computing devices. Rather than relying on bits, quantum computing depends on a matrix of quantum physics laws and their application. Use of quantum ‘bits’ or quibits can enable business operations to move faster and more seamlessly than ever before.

Quantum computing development

Creating a quantum computer is a 180 degree pivot from classical computer development. In other words, it’s an entirely different kettle of fish. Quantum development requires the capacity to think through quantum physics principles and perspectives. Professionals need to map out problems unique to the quantum space.

Finding workers with this particular knowledge base represents a growing challenge. According to one quantum software firm, most new quantum hires require extensive training. Few have the right skills when walking through the door.

Theoretical grasp of quantum

Competent quantum computing development candidates need to have a strong theoretical understanding of quantum computing. They also need to know programming languages and to retain software development experience.

Where to find professionals with physics backgrounds and computing backgrounds is the question. Physics and computing aren’t the most typical dual-majors or Ph.D. dissertation topics.

Same problem, different composition

The problem of who to hire and how to hire pertains to a variety of different quantum development initiatives. In addition, some projects require extremely specific skill sets. For example, a company that’s working on quantum superconducting hardware may need an employee with a physics background, a computing background and knowledge of cryogenics.

Further, organizations may also want to hire someone who can perform data analysis, modelling or programing, or other in-demand professional skills.

Quantum candidates, the Ph.D. crowd

Quantum computing knowledge primarily exists at the Ph.D. level. However, there are few Ph.D. graduates in this discipline, and even fewer willing to work outside of academia. The rate at which institutions are graduating people with quantum-related knowledge cannot keep pace with global need. As a result, much competition exists for quantum computing experts.

Quantum roles growing

While the growth rate for quantum roles remains relatively minimal, experts expect to see a shift within the coming years. By some estimates, the quantum computing market will reach a valuation of $65 billion by 2030. Others forecast that 20% of organizations may start to budget for quantum computing development in 2023.

Ph.D. candidates study for years ahead of presenting dissertations. Should companies sponsor prospective candidates and employees to ensure enough workers to contend with upcoming demand? Alternatively, should universities create undergraduate programs that cater to organizations’ quantum computing needs?

Quantum leaps with online learning

In 2019, a symposium of 50 quantum experts met to explore the then current state of Quantum Information Science and Engineering offerings at the university level. In a report, the group noted that alignment between academic degrees and industry requirements was limited.

Could online learning function as a means of solving the talent gap issue? Could graduates with computing degrees take online courses post-graduation or in tandem with onboarding within a new organization in order to build their quantum computing skills? This is a potential option on the table.

Professionals may have to enroll in industry-specific online quantum computing coursework. For example, the banking industry may need professionals with knowledge of quantum computing and finance. Similarly, a healthcare firm may need a professional with a deep understanding of quantum computing and IoMT.

In summary

Enterprise are actively working to explore the potential of quantum computing for practical applications. Banking firm JP Morgan has even developed a summer associate program for math and science students who aim to pursue a Ph.D.

Finding a quantum computing candidate is difficult. Your organization might not need this type of talent in the next 1-3 months. However, planning your hiring process and skill acquisition offerings for a year, two years or five years out could help you gain an edge over the competition, especially since most US organizations are currently competing for candidates from the same talent pool.

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