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Amidst Ongoing Tech Layoffs, AI/ML Talent Continues to Be in Demand

Layoffs in the tech sector and elsewhere have disrupted lives and grabbed headlines throughout the first quarter of 2023. However, findings from the 2023 AI/ML Investment Priorities research study conducted by Verta Insights suggest that AI/ML talent continues to be in demand as companies seek to expand their use of machine learning.

For the study, we collected input from over 460 professionals in the field to glean insights into 2023 spending trends around AI/ML technology and talent. The study specifically looked at how budgets for five different categories of talent across the ML lifecycle would change in 2023 versus 2022.

More than half (55%) of the responding companies planned to increase spending in the categories of Data Science, Data Engineering, and ML Engineering. Fewer than 1 in 10 reported that they would be reducing their spend in any of these talent categories.

Just under half (47%) of organizations plan to boost their spending on DevOps/DevSecOps talent, and again the share of companies targeting this category for spending cuts was markedly low (9%).

For the category of Actuarial Science/Statisticians, just over half (52%) of companies are planning to spend about the same in 2023 as in the prior year, while 36% planned to increase their spending in this category, and 12% said they would spend less.

2023 Planned Investments in AI/ML Talent Categories

Chart of planned investments in AI/ML talent categories

The greater level of status quo that we see in these last two categories, DevOps/DevSecOps and Actuarial Science/Statisticians, makes sense when we consider that these are more mature functions, where we would expect to see lower levels of growth.

On the other hand, we see higher levels of growth in newer roles involved in data and MLOps. As we see organizations mature in their AI/ML capabilities, we might expect to see increasing demand for roles like ML engineer and ML platform engineer that will be involved in effectively and efficiently operationalizing ML models.

Investments in MRM, Ethics & Responsible AI

The study also looked at how companies are investing in different teams or committees that support the AI/ML lifecycle, and an interesting difference emerged in how leading and lagging performers are investing in teams supporting AI Ethics/Responsibility.

The research found that 43% of leading performers (companies that always or usually meet their financial targets) are increasing their spending on AI Ethics and AI Responsibility groups, versus just 23% of lagging performers (which sometimes/rarely/never meet targets).

AI Ethics/Responsibility teams typically focus on AI governance, including developing and applying guidelines for the use of AI in the organization, across the entire ML lifecycle. The role of these teams will become increasingly important as new AI regulations take effect, raising the stakes for companies to ensure that they can meet regulatory requirements.

2023 Planned Investments to Support AI/ML Teams & Committees

Chart of planned investments to support AI/ML teams

Note that we conducted the study in December 2022 and January 2023, just at the start of the wave of layoff announcements coming out of the tech sector. Those reductions in force have continued throughout Q1. However, even as they have announced layoffs, tech companies have also reaffirmed their commitment to investing in AI — see Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI, for example — so we have reason to believe that hiring will continue to be strong for the categories covered in our study.

For more insights from the 2023 AI/ML Investment Priorities research study by Verta Insights, download the full complimentary report.

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