The growing Internet of Things is opening up a new range of jobs that require specific IoT skills--and we're already seeing a shortage of qualified candidates.

According to Zebra Technologies’ inaugural Intelligent Enterprise Index, 62 percent of companies plan to deploy IoT initiatives company-wide in the future and 42 percent of enterprises are spending at least $3.1 million annually on IoT. So, there’s a time crunch to ramp up training and education to catch up to the demand for the needed skills.

The industry is currently experiencing a major shortage of qualified IoT professionals, and it could persist for the next five to seven years. This shortage is echoed across artificial intelligence and DevOps, and is becoming increasingly acute.

The first step toward mitigating the staffing crisis is by offering specific certifications and intensive boot camps geared to the new trends and high demand roles. This will fill some of the most critical and urgent positions, but only gets us so far.

Because IoT and AI also involve handling sensitive data and humanitarian issues these areas require candidates that have soft skills. Such candidates are likely to be far more successful than those who are solely skilled in technical aspects.

I believe we should look to those who lack traditional STEM backgrounds. By taking someone with a liberal arts or humanities background, and opening up opportunities for them in development or IT, we can create some of the strongest candidates possible.

In a recent Northeastern University survey of 500 members of the IEEE 38% of respondents ranked data aggregation and analysis as the biggest career challenges. However, the career strength chosen as most relevant for their success was the need for communications skills, including an ability to explain ideas or concepts clearly and effectively.

Particularly in Silicon Valley, we see many individuals with liberal-arts backgrounds who would be extremely successfully in technical roles, provided they get the required education. As housing costs continue to rise, more and more of these candidates are seeing the benefit of a change to technical roles that outstrip the possibilities of their current careers.

This new population of IT leaders will have the emotional intelligence to guide complex conversations about the collision of digital and legacy cultures. These are exactly the types of leaders we need to create as our lives become more and more intertwined with technology and the data we generate becomes more and more sensitive.

--P.K. Agarwal is CEO and Dean of Northeastern University Silicon Valley.