North's tech sector must tackle skills gap to grasp AI opportunities, warns Kainos chief

Pictured are: Tom Gray from Kainos; business stream keynote speaker, Maria McKavanagh from Verv; Lord Mayor of Belfast, Deirdre Hargey; and conference keynote speaker, Sunil Sharma, MD of Techstars Toronto.

THE north's tech sector must tackle the widening skills gasp in order to grasp emerging opportunities in Artificial Intelligence (AI), according to a local industry expert.

Addressing the sixth annual Beltech Conference, Tom Gray, group chief technology officer at Kainos said Northern Ireland must have the right skills for the industry or it faces being "left behind" on the global market.

“There is a need to debunk the myth that the tech industry is only for people who code," he said.

"We have a responsibility to help people understand the breadth of skills that are essential in our industry. Problem solvers, designers, communicators, collaborators, and project managers are all fundamental roles within the emerging technology sector."

“Tech isn't geared at those who have the ability to evaluate and apply knowledge resulting in a much smaller pool of potential talent. Changing how we approach the sector will extend opportunities to those who are currently excluded and ultimately redress the broadening skills gap," Mr Gray added.

The senior Kainos representative was speaking at the opening of the two-day BelTech conference on Thursday, which was attended by over 370 delegates at Titanic Belfast.

Guests also heard from key note speaker Sunil Sharma, the managing director of Techstars Toronto. He believes Belfast can learn lessons from the growth of the Canadian city.

“Policy makers need to create cities that are attractive to disruptive tech start-ups to sustain the growth of Northern Ireland's thriving tech community,” Mr Sharma said.

The second and final day of Beltech 2019 was focused on education, with 500 post-primary students attending inspirational sessions delivered by local and global high tech organisations on how to achieve sustainable career paths in software engineering and artificial intelligence.

This year BelTech also launched a new stream as part of the programme aimed at technologists with an interest in exploiting the application and growth of technology.

BelTech is curated and sponsored by Northern Ireland-based digital solutions provider Kainos Software and features influential international speakers from the worlds of software engineering and Artificial Intelligence.

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