Quantum computing is no longer the future, but increasingly, the present of computing. From being a field of research and promises, it has become one of the most interesting development fields for the technology industry. And it is that with practical applications such as the processing of huge volumes of data, the agile resolution of complex problems, or the development of improved business models, no leading company wants the new «Next big thing» it can slip out of their hands.
That of quantum is, however, a complex terrain. Right now, probably the most. This means that if already in other IT areas attracting and retaining the best talent has become a titanic task in recent years, when it comes to gathering qubits, we are talking about a mission practically impossible.
As we have pointed out on other occasions, and as the guys at CNET remind us, the main problem we find in this discipline is not so much that companies like Google, IBM or Honeywell have to “fight” for the best talent and for what So much so that they offer higher salaries, but that regardless of what they want to pay, the available talent is really scarce. The knowledge that is needed is so specialized and complex, but at the same time, it involves so many fields, that there simply are no profiles that fit the positions.
As a general rule, professionals who develop their careers in this industry need to have advanced knowledge of mathematics, quantum physics and computer science. It is not something found in a Curriculum vitae typical. In fact, as most companies in this small but burgeoning industry acknowledge, it is missing.
Samantha Edmondson, CEO of the British startup «Universal Quantum», explains them in the American publication as follows: «We need classical hardware engineers, software engineers, mathematicians, experts in simulation and modeling… and it is quite a challenge… Yes we hired an engineer, he has no knowledge of physics; if we hire a physicist, he is not used to working in the field of computing … »
Being a fairly new field of research, universities are also not offering any degree or postgraduate courses that address the problems that arise from quantum computing, or that train new professionals who can start working in this industry from the first moment. . At the same time and as the IT knowledge that is necessary to enter the industry is increasingly complex, we are witnessing a phenomenon that shows how each time fewer young people are interested in studying STEM careers.
How do companies that want to excel in quantum tackle this problem? Of course, trying to attract the little talent that they have at their disposal in the market, but above all by investing in training. Companies such as Universal Quantum select the most outstanding students from careers such as physics, mathematics or computer engineering to then introduce them to a paid training program (from 3 to 6 months) in which they are oriented towards certain aspects of quantum towards the that could guide your career.
These training programs solve part of the problems that companies face, but they are also a luxury, since they mean that a hyper-specialized workforce must spend approximately 20% of their time, on training tasks, instead of work on solving the “real problems” that the organization faces. This, which can be done without too much cost in larger companies (IBM, Google, Microsoft), can become unaffordable for smaller companies, thus creating a “Talent funnel” which ends up limiting competition.
Another solution happens because several companies invest in external programs, in authentic quantum computing accelerators. An example is Qatalyst, a space that serves as an accelerator for quantum projects and applications, at the same time that it trains new professional profiles that in the future can join companies in the sector.
Finally, and what more and more experts agree on, is that it is necessary to rethink the way in which students are trained already in university, so that their bet is to expose them to the latest technologies such as quantum from the first moment, lowering from the theoretical framework of the great principles to the realm of the practical. If the lack of talent worries more and more it is because such promising paradigms as quantum, but also other technologies such as new extended realities or the development of new materials, may be in danger for this reason. And it is that having the knowledge, but not the necessary human capital, can become the great brake on innovation in the coming years.