Italy AI watchdog fails to hire for any of its 4 open positions

After briefly banning ChatGPT last year, Italy’s government is getting a taste of just how hard it could be to hire anyone capable of using the technology amid a global scramble for AI talent.

The country’s AI watchdog, Garante, has been trying to recruit for four positions since temporarily removing OpenAI’s chatbot from its internet last year, in a bid to strengthen its defenses against the technology.

However, Garante’s boss has been left scratching his head as the watchdog has failed to hire for any of its open positions and seen several prospective hires fall at the final hurdle, Reuters reported.

‘So far we have lost’

“The search process went worse than our low expectations,” a glum Garante board member, Guido Scorza, told Reuters

“We will come up with something else, but so far we have lost.”

Scorza said that a range of factors had led to a dozen candidates dropping out of the hiring process, citing things like salary as a hurdle to attracting the best talent.

Workers able to use AI have become the hottest commodity on the labor market, with companies across most sectors scrambling for workers since the explosion of ChatGPT.

This problem has been accentuated for governmental organizations, who need AI-skilled staff as regulation picks up but cannot compete with the salaries being offered in the private sector. 

It’s a challenge the U.S. government has faced head-on, undertaking a massive recruitment drive at the start of the year to get AI computer engineers, AI computer scientists, IT specialists, and management and program analysts into crucial departments.

The White House authorized government-wide direct-hire authority for those four positions, which will help speed up hiring. 

They are leaning on the pull of giving staffers an opportunity to make a difference in the world with their skills, as consternation grows against the recklessness of private AI companies.

“The problem and the impact should be deeply motivating,” Mina Hsiang, the administrator of the United States Digital Service, said on The Verge’s Decoder podcast.

She added that the U.S. government wanted “people who are excited about increasing trust in government, who are excited to solve these problems in a long-term way.”

But it may take more than a speedy process and the promise to make a difference to pull in the best AI talent. 

Skilled workers are expected to command huge six-figure salaries, as demonstrated by the war for talent at Wall Street’s biggest banks, with 60 people reported to have walked out of Goldman Sachs for better offers at rivals like Morgan Stanley and Citigroup in the 12 months to September 2023.

Getting the best talent

Italy’s watchdog doesn’t seem to have had much luck getting AI workers in the door so far, but it might still have hope from a potential upcoming wave of fresh talent, provided it takes a more flexible approach to work.

A March report from McKinsey found more than half of generative AI creators and heavy users were planning to quit within the next three to six months, a much higher share than the average worker.

“They’re in a position to ask for what they want, and what they want is more,” Aaron De Smet, senior partner at McKinsey, told Fortune. “And so employers are not meeting all of their needs, and they’re in a position where they feel like they can go get all their needs met.”

Like with the spurned Garante hires, while salary was an important factor for these workers, De Smet said they could be trumped by offering more flexibility to staff in the form of remote options or allowing them to choose their own hours. 

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