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The Quantum Skills Shortage Is Quantum Computing’s Next Big Challenge

By IQT News posted 03 Aug 2021

(ZDNet) Quantum computers are fundamentally different from the classical devices. Building, programming and maintaining a quantum computer is a radically different paradigm than classical computing.  Quantum computing requires an understanding of quantum physics and how to map problems to the quantum space — think programming languages, architectures, workflows and software, all of which are specific to quantum computing.
Finding workers who have that breadth of knowledge is becoming more and more difficult. employers need quantum employees with interdisciplinary skills: on top of a background in quantum physics, some sort of experience with data analysis, engineering, modelling or programming, among other things, will also be a must-have.
A company working on quantum superconducting hardware, for example, is likely to need someone that can build the infrastructure that cools down the system’s processor — which requires knowledge and expertise not only in quantum physics and cryogenics but also computer science skills to carry out testing and trialling.
That level of specialisation isn’t common; in fact, it mostly exists at the PhD level. And the problem is, there aren’t enough PhD graduates. “If you’re trying to hire for quantum skills, you end up having to look for very interdisciplinary training, and what you end up needing is usually PhDs,” Abe Asfaw, quantum education lead at IBM, tells ZDNet. “The rate at which PhDs is being generated is far slower than the industry needs today, so we’re seeing very intense competition to hire new PhDs in the field.”
But this is expected to change as businesses increasingly show interest in quantum technologies.
This gap could also be solved at the university level, in the form of double majors combining quantum with a specialism — but companies will likely have to take it upon themselves to develop talent early to make sure that employees understand their specific business problems, and how they can be answered with quantum computing.

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