IDG Contributor Network: The hottest skills for tech contractors | Artificial intelligence

Today, contract workers make up almost 36 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to a recent study of the independent workforce. Hiring contract workers is becoming so common these independent workers will likely outnumber non-freelancers in the U.S. by 2027, if current projections remain accurate. 

Given the continuing rise in the number of available contract workers, it’s no surprise the industry is looking to utilize this talent group as a solution to the ongoing talent shortage in the U.S. Hiring results in a faster hiring process, less red tape, and an immediate solution to an urgent hiring need. As more companies are reevaluating their hiring processes to include contract workers, here’s a look at the most in-demand for tech contractors today.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

From supply-chain management to marketing and sales enablement, the uses of AI are expansive. Demand for AI skills has more than doubled over the last three years, according to a recent Indeed report, as more use cases and business applications have been developed. Machine learning (ML) and deep learning, subsets of AI, are also on the rise as companies are looking to do more with the vast stores of data they’re collecting.

Rather than replacing humans, AI augmentation will be the key to continued success among enterprises. Augmenting human with the capabilities AI provides will produce more efficient internal processes, more effective marketing campaigns, increased revenue, along with a variety of other business benefits. And, innovative companies today are actively looking to hire contractors for this in-demand skill set. Contractors with AI development and ML engineering skills will be even more sought-after in the coming months and years as deep learning and advanced AI capabilities become feasible for a wider array of businesses.

Data science

Bloomberg called the data scientist role “America’s job,” and they were right because data science is now an essential component of how businesses make decisions. LinkedIn’s Most Promising Jobs Report 2018 reported a 45 percent year-over-year growth rate for data scientist roles. The reason for the continued increase? A continued shortage of talent who can actually do data science.

An extremely profitable career choice, data science roles require a mix of statistics, math, and computer science skills, along with fluency in Python and R programming languages, which is why finding qualified talent is such a challenge. Those who are qualified are turning to contract work more often to have more control and ownership over the projects they work on and the employers they work for. In today’s candidate-driven market, experts with data science skills hold the power when it comes to the hiring process. Many businesses are opting to hire for more flexible data science contracting roles in an attempt to match the demands from the field.

Python

The versatility of Python makes it one of the hottest skills for tech contractors. It supports everything from object-oriented programming to functional programming patterns, among others. As a general purpose and open-source coding language, it’s intuitive and easy to learn making it more popular among developers. The massive libraries of Python lend themselves perfectly to the data manipulation needs of data scientists, and the language integrates easily with existing infrastructure and can be used across multiple applications platforms.

Companies looking to hire data science, AI, ML, or IoT-specific contractors often list Python as a core hiring requirement given its wide-ranging uses. Talent interested in a career as a tech contractor should consider learning this in-demand coding language as it allows for a variety of in-demand career paths within the industry.

IoT (Internet of Things)

To say IoT is exploding is putting it mildly. Worldwide IoT spending is forecasted to reach $772.5 billion in 2018, according to a recent International Data Corporation (IDC) study. Last year, the number of IoT devices outnumbered our global population, and over four billion business IoT devices are projected for 2018 alone, according to Gartner.

Moving beyond simple connected devices like smart appliances, IoT is now taking shape in the form of intelligent sensors, platforms, and autonomous, predictive analysis. The convergence of IoT with AI and blockchain, along with the development of IoT edge technology, is moving this tech innovation beyond the hype phase to ROI generation which is why businesses are looking to hire for this niche skill set now. Contractors with advanced IoT skills should expect demand to continue to increase as tech advancements eliminate hurdles associated with IoT business integration.

Data security

Whether you call it data security, InfoSec, or cybersecurity, businesses are hiring for it. The integration of the latest tech advancements like AI, ML, and IoT has led to an increase in security threats and cyberattacks. In fact, cybercrime has become so profitable and widespread that cybercrime damages are projected to reach $6 trillion annually by 2021, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. As companies’ investments into AI, IoT, and other innovations increase, investments in data security solutions and talent will increase as well. Which is why IT and data security skills round out this list of in-demand skills.

Like most of the in-demand tech skills, demand continues to outpace the supply of qualified IT security talent. However, the key to successfully utilizing recent tech advancements and reaping the ROI these innovations can provide is by ensuring your sensitive business data remains secure. Given this fact, demand for high-end IT security, data security, and cybersecurity shows no signs of slowing. 

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