Help Wanted: QED-C Survey Spotlights Skills Sought by Quantum Industry

By John Russell

September 28, 2021

Developing an adequate workforce for the young but fast-growing quantum information sciences industry is seen as a critical element for success. Just what that means in terms of skillsets and positions is becoming clearer with release of a workforce assessment study by the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C) in August. The report  identifies many of the skills and positions being sought by quantum community.

“This study provides timely insight into the wide variety of jobs required to support the emerging quantum industry. The study results will help the U.S. grow a quantum workforce with the relevant skills,” said Corey Stambaugh with the National Quantum Coordination Office in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who is quoted in an announcement issued today by SRI International to call attention to the report. SRI is one of the report’s authors.

The assessment includes recommendations for educators preparing students for the quantum industry and advises those developing new degree programs to provide both quantum-specific and general science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses. It also guides educators to consider adding broad quantum courses for students pursuing non-quantum degree programs, equipping them for multiple quantum-related roles.

Perhaps not surprising was the diversity of skills and positions wanted. See hiring plans chart below.

To generate the data, a survey covering 19 job roles and 31 skills was sent to 131 companies. The results are based on responses from 57 companies. “As there is a broad range of companies represented in our data, we present only the “important” skills or degrees, so as to focus on items that are common across the quantum industry as a whole − this information will be more useful for understanding the general industry, rather than one sub-sector. We define an important skill or degree as one in which more than 50% of respondents to that part of the survey said that a skill or degree was needed for a particular job,” according to the report (authors listed at end of article).

The report emphasizes that quantum skills often not necessary.

“First, quantum skills are not needed for all jobs, and non-quantum skills remain important for all jobs. Further, quantum skills tend to cluster by type and into specific job roles. By type, Quantum Algorithm Development (5 quantum skills) and Quantum Science (4 quantum skills) account for 9 out of the 13 occurrences of the important quantum skills. By role, unsurprisingly, it is the more quantum-specific roles that require more quantum skills, e.g., see the error correction scientist role in Tab. I (below). These data also indicate that many jobs in the quantum industry do not require any important quantum skills. As such, for these jobs, the quantum industry can obtain personnel from the current non-quantum workforce, and people in this workforce should be encouraged to apply to the quantum industry,” according to the report.

As part of its conclusion, the report makes the following recommendations (excerpted):

  • “With so few job roles requiring many quantum skills, educators developing new quantum master’s programs should consider the balance between quantum-specific courses and more general STEM courses.
  • “To prepare students for jobs where there are few or no important quantum skills, universities should consider developing one or two broad quantum courses for this population. Similarly, the quantum industry should be able to acquire appreciable workforce from these quantum-aware graduates.
  • “Based on the correlations between skills, there is a subset of jobs related to business. These jobs have not been a part of the conversations for quantum workforce development. We recommend that universities begin to engage with leaders in business education on their campuses to prepare students from business majors for roles in the quantum industry.”

The report is freely available and best read directly.

Link to report (Assessing the Needs of the Quantum Industry), https://arxiv.org/pdf/2109.03601.pdf

Listed authors: Ciaran Hughes, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; Doug Finke, Quantum Computing Report; Dan-Adrian German, Luddy School of Informatics, Indiana University; Celia Merzbacher, SRI International; Patrick M. Vora, Department of Physics and Astronomy, George Mason University; and H. J. Lewandowski, JILA, National Institute of Standards and Technology and University of Colorado

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