The pace at which organizations are embracing generative artificial intelligence (AI) is creating increased demand for skills that are in short supply.

A survey of 1,400 U.S. business leaders published today by Upwork, a provider of a platform for contracting freelancers, finds nearly half (49%) are looking to hire full-time employees with generative AI skillsets. An equal percentage said they are looking to hire independent talent with generative AI skills.

In general, AI was the fastest growing category on Upwork in the first half of 2023, with generative AI job posts up more than 1000% year-over-year in the second quarter, with related searches increasing more than 1500%.

It’s not clear to what degree organizations are looking to build AI platforms versus exploit the capabilities of platforms that can be invoked as a service, but it appears AI is driving job creation across multiple industries at an accelerated pace, notes Dr. Kelly Monahan, managing director for the Upwork Research Institute. “Demand is maturing,” says Monahan.

As is the case with every technology innovation there will be, from a job demand perspective, winners and losers, but in the short it’s clear AI is driving a net gain, she adds. Whether that continues to be the case is unknown, but historically technology advances have created more jobs than have been lost, adds Monahan.

The challenge is that the pace at which generative AI technologies are being embraced is occurring at a much faster rate, so the level of disruption is going to be perceived to be much higher, says Monahan.

From January 1 to June 30, 2023, the top generative AI-related searches from companies using Upwork were:

  1. ChatGPT
  2. BERT
  3. Stable Diffusion
  4. TensorFlow
  5. AI Chatbot
  6. Generative AI
  7. Image Processing
  8. PyTorch
  9. Natural Language Processing (NLP)
  10. Bard

In the same timeframe, the fastest growing generative AI-related searches overall on Upwork were:

  1. AI Content Creation
  2. Gradio
  3. Azure OpenAI
  4. Convolutional Neural Network
  5. Large Language Models (LLMs)
  6. Generative AI
  7. AI Chatbot
  8. Midjourney
  9. Prompt Engineering
  10. PyTorch

Given the current pace of adoption, companies appear to be looking to recruit AI talent wherever it is available. The top 10 generative AI-related projects clients are hiring freelancers for involve:

  1. ChatGPT
  2. Natural Language Processing (NLP)
  3. TensorFlow
  4. Image Processing
  5. PyTorch
  6. AI Content Creation
  7. Midjourney
  8. AI Chatbot
  9. Model Tuning
  10. Stable Diffusion

It’s too early to say for how long AI might drive a net gain in jobs before inevitably plateauing, but for now at least, there is something of a halo effect being created for anyone that has any level of familiarity with AI, says Monahan.

Of course, it’s still early days as far as the evolution of AI is concerned. Few organizations have a concrete AI strategy, so much of the skills demand is being driven by exploratory projects that might not ever see the light of day. However, at a time when the only thing most business leaders are sure of is they don’t want to be left behind, the most critical asset any organization may have today is the number of people that understand how to, at the very least, apply AI in a way that creates a compelling return on investment.