Five Ways to Combat the Quantum Skills Shortage
(By Daniel O’Shea) As quantum computing continues to move rapidly forward, it also is becoming clear that there are some issues holding it back. Some of those issues, like the need for fault tolerance, will be solved in due time as the industry keeps researching, experimenting and innovating.
But there is at least one limiting challenge that needs to be addressed for the industry to keep up–and speed up–its pace of innovation: Quantum computing is facing a skills shortage.
This has been noted by research reports and was a subject of discussion during the Inside Quantum Technology Spring conference last May. Most recently, it was highlighted in a survey, commissioned by quantum software company Classiq, of 500 business managers across several industries who are familiar with quantum technology. The survey found that “lack of qualified manpower” is one of the biggest roadblocks to greater quantum deployment.
About half of the survey respondents said lack of quantum experts has prevented quantum computing from becoming even more popular than it already is.
The sector may not be lacking for people interested in obtaining better skills. Almost 95% of survey respondents said they would like to be trained in quantum, and more than 95% said they believed high schools and universities should offer more quantum computing training.
The skills shortage isn’t just a quantum problem. It’s a global problem affecting many different industries, and may also be a key component in ongoing disruptions and delays in global supply chains. In some sectors, there simply aren’t enough people that want to be involved. In quantum, there are some interested parties, but they lack the necessary skills and tools.
So, what can be done about this? Here’s a list of five things we need to see a lot more of if the industry is going to keep the quantum skills shortage from slowing its progress:
- More professional training offered by the leaders of the quantum computing ecosystem. The sector doesn’t just need PhDs. It also needs to help people who may be experts in other domains to better understand quantum. Some companies already are doing their part. Quantum skills training is a major part of IBM’s recently announced effort to provide digital skills and training to 30 million people by 2030, and the company in early 2021 launched its first quantum developer certification program.
- More university and even high school-level training. The sector doesn’t need just PhDs, but it definitely needs more PhDs, and that means weaving quantum computing into more existing science and engineering curriculum at these levels–the earlier the better.
- Greater promotion of quantum computing as a great career move. Those involved in the sector get it, but younger workers may not yet grasp how critical quantum technology will become over the next decade–and how much of a payoff there will be for skilled workers who seize the opportunity.
- More investment in software and other developer tools that make it easier to work with quantum without needing a PhD. About half of the respondents in Classiq’s survey said lack of developer software environments was an issue. This is an area where Classiq is trying to make a difference. “The issue is that to develop quantum software, today’s developers have to have a deep understanding of quantum physics and linear algebra,” said Classiq CMO Yuval Boger in an email to Inside Quantum Technology. “Not only does this require additional training, but it makes it difficult for domain-specific experts — those that are experts in chemistry, supply chain, machine learning or finance — from contributing to the quantum effort. Classiq solves this issue by offering a development platform that allows designers to focus on their goals, ‘the what’ of what they are trying to achieve, instead of on the ‘how’ of which qubits connect to which quantum gates, how to make this work across multiple computers, and how to fit everything within the constrained resources of the hardware.”
More focus on C-level awareness and understanding of quantum’s value. CEOs don’t need to build cooling fridges themselves, but if top-level executives have a better understanding of the value quantum technology can offer and how they need to direct their corporate strategies, budgets and organizational plans to take advantage of it, they can be key champions of the effort to help create a much larger quantum-skilled workforce.