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article imageCanada home to top AI jobs — openings surge 500 percent

By James Walker     Aug 1, 2017 in Technology
Canada is becoming one of the global leaders in artificial intelligence as the amount of funding allocated to the area has increased. A new study has found Canadian AI job openings are up 500 percent owing to "rapid advancements" underlying technologies.
BetaKit reports that job search site found that opportunities related to machine learning and artificial intelligence have ballooned in the two years since June 2015. The headline 500 percent figure refers to AI job openings as a share of all the vacant positions in the country.
As may be expected, discovered AI research is concentrated around a few key cities. Ontario is the major hub, hosting 54 percent of all the open jobs. Toronto came in second, at 37 percent, with Quebec, Vancouver and Montreal among the other principal centres.
Toronto s talent is booming.
Toronto's talent is booming.
The study demonstrates that Canada is becoming one of the most prominent leaders in the global development of AI. The country was one of the first to experiment with AI technology, before the mainstream Silicon Valley giants became interested. Experts at universities across Canada were dabbling with neural networks in the 1980s, when regular computing was still just getting established.
The Canadian government has been supportive of its AI researchers, investing in new facilities under grants which continue today. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $125 million CAN investment ($93 million USD) in AI tech hubs in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton earlier this year. Private investment has also remained steady with a record $162 million secured in the first half of 2017.
Canada now needs to ensure it's positioned to benefit from its own success. Despite being a pioneer in the field, the country's work hasn't been widely recognised or rewarded.
The government and universities have only recently realised the need to create a sustainable environment that encourages AI experts to stay within Canada. There are concerns that top engineers could be enticed out of the country by offers from Silicon Valley firms.
A man walks by a Blackberry sign at the Blackberry campus in Waterloo
A man walks by a Blackberry sign at the Blackberry campus in Waterloo
� Mark Blinch / Reuters, Reuters
In some cases, this means ensuring there's opportunities for Canadian AI breakthroughs to be used inside Canada. While it hosts prospering technology research centres, the general Canadian tech industry has collapsed in recent years.
As The New York Times noted in a recent report, the failures of telecoms giants Nortel and RIM has caused Canada to fade in the global markets. Innovative AI start-ups have left the country to be closer to their investors in the Bay Area.
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Nonetheless, the report from suggests interest in AI is booming and Canadian jobseekers are well-placed to begin their career in the field. The survey authors cautioned that continued investment in the industry will be "key" to its long-term development. If it's maintained, AI could become a "substantial contributor" to Canada's economic health.
"Rapid advancements in the technology behind artificial intelligence have had significant impacts on the labour market," BetaKit reports economist Daniel Culbertson said. "Considering the potential for widespread application of these technologies across many industries, there is a strong possibility that this field will be a substantial contributor to economic growth for a long time to come."
The report also revealed that Canadian AI firms have a particularly high demand for machine learning engineers. The number of open job postings is up 61 percent over last year as firms race to create more powerful AI that can "learn" and work out how to complete new tasks. It indicates the general shift in AI development towards autonomous systems with a reduced reliance on human training.
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