Bridging the AQ Divide: Upskilling Workers for AI and Quantum Opportunities

August 15, 2023
Bridging the AQ Divide: Upskilling Workers for AI and Quantum OpportunitiesBridging the AQ Divide: Upskilling Workers for AI and Quantum Opportunities

By Jack Hidary, CEO of SandboxAQ, and Dr. Kristin Gilkes, Global Quantum Leader, EY

The last year has seen AI reach an inflection point as an increasingly undeniable presence in our lives. Quantum technologies are not far behind. While these two fields have great individual potential, when combined, AI and quantum (AQ) technologies unlock truly transformative possibilities across industries, from life and materials sciences to banking, telecommunications, and more.

Accordingly, the demand for skilled AI and quantum professionals is skyrocketing. So far, this demand is not being met, resulting in a looming challenge: the AQ Divide. This gap threatens to create a stark disparity between organizations that have access to AI and quantum experts and those that do not. To address this critical issue, Global 1000 corporations must prioritize upskilling our workforce to seize the vast opportunities presented by AI and quantum technologies.

SandboxAQ and global systems integrator EY recognized early on the challenges of meeting this demand and joined forces to address them. Recently, SandboxAQ announced it formed strategic partnerships with more than 30 major universities and educational organizations to help prepare the next generation of AQ talent. Through these partnerships, we have created programs that provide students and postdoctoral researchers with grants, fellowships, mentorship, and hands-on experience working with cutting-edge AI and quantum solutions.

The collaboration between SandboxAQ, EY, and academia has made substantial progress in expanding quantum and STEM education, stimulating career interest, and addressing the urgent need for a diverse and skilled quantum workforce. Together, we are building a sustainable ecosystem for the AI and quantum technology industry, fostering innovation, and driving job growth. Advancing AQ education will help meet the demand for skilled talent, but we must go further.

We know that efficient automation brought by advanced AI will eliminate millions of jobs, but what isn’t talked about as much is the opportunity to upskill current professionals to prepare for this shift. The responsibility of upskilling our workforce extends beyond the educational system alone. Governments, major corporations, and the startup and tech industry must join forces with higher-learning institutions to eliminate barriers to entry, equip graduates with practical and relevant AI and quantum skills, and create an inclusive quantum ecosystem. Only through collective action can we bridge the AQ Divide and ensure that organizations are prepared to thrive in the AI and quantum economy.

SandboxAQ's residency program provides hands-on experience using AQ technologies to solve real-world challenges and has already trained dozens of graduate students and postdocs from around the globe. Students from institutions such as the City University of New York, Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Princeton, Stanford, and University of California Merced have participated in the program, gaining exposure to the possibilities of quantum technologies and paving the way for future innovations.

By attracting prominent PhDs and professors to join our advisory board, we’re ensuring that our educational mission remains aligned with cutting-edge research and industry needs. This collaboration between academia, industry, and visionary leaders creates a robust ecosystem where knowledge and expertise are shared, fostering quantum advancements that will shape the future.

Upskilling workforces to close the AQ gap presents an opportunity to deliberately enhance diversity in STEM. Innovation thrives when varied perspectives come together.  In fact, numerous studies have shown the benefits of diverse teams, both for company culture and for business outcomes.  By embracing diversity and inclusivity, EY is championing initiatives that empower underrepresented groups in STEM, further enriching our collective talent pool. 

Furthering our commitment to diversity, SandboxAQ has also joined forces with organizations like Diversity in Quantum (DivIQ), Womanium, and Tech Trek to create more inclusive opportunities and expand equity in the quantum ecosystem. Through grants, mentorship, events, and career support, we aim to break barriers and ensure that underrepresented groups, including women, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ community, have equal access to quantum education and career paths.

We stand at a critical point: Disruption is already at our door, with the rapid advancement of AI and quantum technologies demanding a skilled and diverse workforce to ensure these technologies’ transformative potential benefits everyone. By embracing collaborative initiatives and prioritizing upskilling efforts, we can bridge the AQ Divide, empowering organizations to thrive in the AI and quantum economy.

So what can you do? Reach out to your partners or ours and begin planning for your organization’s transformation. Invest in education, and create a future where no area of your organization is left behind, where every worker has the opportunity to contribute and succeed in the transformative age of AI and quantum.

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