News & Analysis

Big Tech Seeks to Bridge Quantum Skills Gap

Quantum computing jobs may go abegging due to the existing skills gap in the industry, says market research and analysis report

A recent report from consulting firm McKinsey points to a growing gap between demand for quantum computing jobs and its fulfillment and predicts that only 50% of them would get filled by 2025. Now, if one were to juxtapose this with the expectation that this industry vertical aims to generate over $700 billion in value by 2035, the situation does appear challenging. 

The report says at present just one qualified quantum computing candidate is available for three such job openings and calls for significant interventions in the next couple of years if the industry expects to fulfill its aspirations. Reports suggest big tech giants such as Microsoft, Google and IBM are racing against time to bridge this skills gap. 

Right on cue, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has also brought out this challenge in a report that says skill shortages are already impacting the tech companies with over half of them looking for resources with the right skills. Over the next two decades, this demand for a skilled workforce will grow exponentially, the organization has warned. 

Looks like it isn’t just quantum computing skills

In this backdrop, some of the top technology companies of the world appear to be moving in with a clear aim to bridge this gap. A report published in SDxCentral quoted a senior IBM official as stating that while the demand-supply gap for skilled resources is a known fact, players in this field need to come across all parts of the stack in the business. 

In other words, it is not just resources with quantum skills. Those having traditional software development skills, others who are good at control electronics and still others with exposure to radiofrequency electronics besides traditional electrical engineering backgrounds are a must, says Olivia Lanes, North American lead of Qiskit research and education at IBM.

While IBM has gone to town with its open science and open community approach to educate 30 million people in tech by 2030, others are taking their own route to ensure that any supply side constraints on resourcing the quantum computing journey is noted and fixed. 

On its part, Microsoft is helping to fill growing demand across software, security, infrastructure management and cloud products. It offers a quantum development kit offering quantum language and libraries. The kit contains components that could be used as standalone and independent of the Asure Quantum service. 

Google, meanwhile, has created an open source framework called Cirq that is a Python software library for writing, manipulating and optimizing quantum circuits. The company also works with students and faculty at global universities to generate engagement, learning and nudge the students towards research. 

Of course, one of the challenges in teaching quantum computing at university is to have actual quantum computers to conduct experiments and demonstrate its prowess to encourage students to take it up. IBM currently operates around 500 university classrooms using its Quantum Educators program. 

Where does India stand in this race?

From India’s perspective, there are about 100 ongoing quantum projects of which 92 are sponsored by the federal government. Over the next five years, investments to the tune of Rs.8000 crore could be pumped into advanced research in the areas of quantum information and meteorology, quantum applications and materials, and quantum communications. 

Meanwhile, a NASSCOM-Avasant study reported that India is planning to develop a quantum computer with a capacity of 50 qubits by 2026. However, the development of smaller-scale devices (quantum simulators, sensors, etc.) is expected to take place much sooner.While defense, banking, high-tech, and manufacturing sectors are expected to lead the charge, the tech is expected to  reach critical maturity by 2026 or 2027, leading to enterprise adoption. 

On the academia side, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) had launched the Quantum Technology Initiative in 2020 to help set up a foundation for quantum technologies as well as create a framework to encourage collaborative efforts between computer scientists, physicists, material scientists, and engineers. That said, would it serve to curtail the brain drain of resources to the developed world is something only time will tell. 

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