Wednesday, 06 December 2017 10:50

Hidden job market uncovered with machine learning: researchers

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Researchers at the Australian National University and CSIRO’s Data61 have developed machine learning which they say scans tens of thousands of job ads to uncover a large hidden job market for PhD graduates.

The researchers say development of the job-searching machine will help universities prepare graduates for non-academic work and show industry the value of PhD graduate research skills.

One of the lead researchers, Dr Will Grant from ANU, said the machine read about 30,000 job ads, many of which were for non-academic work, and assessed the level of research skills required for each job.

“The PhD was originally designed to train the next generation of academics, but most graduates today find jobs outside of academia,” said Dr Grant who is from the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science.

“The machine found a large hidden job market in Australia for people with PhDs, with half of the job ads scanned specifying the need for a high level of education, including research skills.”

Dr Grant said the job market was considered hidden because employers did not use "PhD" as a keyword in ads, adding that highly skilled researchers working in a wide variety of industry sectors were important to Australia’s future economic prosperity.

“We taught the machine to analyse job ads and tell us what skills were most important to employers. The problem is that industry employers in Australia — particularly in manufacturing, transport, logistics, marketing and communication — may not be aware that PhD graduates have the skill set they’re looking for.”

According to Dr Grant, Australian universities must do more to prepare PhD graduates for work outside the higher education sector, while employers needed to be more receptive to people with PhDs.

“PhD programs still tend to favour skills required for an academic career over those demanded by industry,” he said.

“There also seems to be a lack of trust in the PhD qualification as producing work-ready employees.”

Co-researcher Adjunct Professor Hanna Suominen, a natural language processing expert from CSIRO’s Data61, co-invented the machine learning algorithm and is optimistic about the potential of the tool to help find work for PhD students.

“Our researchers will continue to develop the machine into a web portal to support PhD graduates in their search for work,” Dr Suominen said.

“The machine could be refined and used to track changes in industry demand for Australia’s research skilled workforce. It has the potential to connect PhD graduates with ideal jobs they may not have otherwise come across or considered.”

The project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and recruitment company SEEK provided raw data.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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