Data Analytics

Closing the Big Data talent gap

16 February 2018 by Isla Lightfoot

Data, particularly of the Big variety, is in vogue. The number of articles and opinion pieces about how “Big Data is the answer” is growing almost as rapidly as the volume of data being produced. This increase in the availability of data in all facets of life means big data has gone from being the preserve of tech giants like Google, IBM and Amazon to being crucial to gaining a competitive advantage for nearly every business.

This shift is fuelling unprecedented demand amongst businesses large and small from all kinds of industry. Every high-profile case-study on the value of data to businesses fuels demand further — from UPS vans not crossing traffic to save 10 million gallons of fuel to Ocado knowing when you need to order your next bottle of milk. Demand for those analytics skills is predicted to be 160% higher by 2020 than in 2013, and four in five UK businesses have cited difficulty recruiting data talent.

Why the shortage?

Essentially, this is demand for a skill set that simply didn’t exist 20 years ago. The vast quantities of complex data available and the huge variety of sources means that the skills and techniques needed to derive any meaningful insights are more sophisticated than ever before. Functional analytics skills require a combination of statistical mathematics, computer programming, logical thinking, problem solving and exceptional communication skills to accurately scope projects and then present the results.

Such a dramatic rate of change in the data landscape has meant that traditional educational routes can’t keep up. Only now are we seeing specialist education programmes being created in Universities across the UK, and these are typically at Masters or PhD level. These are clearly going to help close the skills gap in the long-term, and start producing highly skilled people to fill specialist roles such as Data Scientists, Data Architects and Data Engineers.

However, that only accounts for a proportion of the demand for these skills. As data becomes more and more widespread throughout organisations, so too is the demand for functional analytics skills to complement business-function specific expertise. For example, data analytics has already transformed sales and marketing to create increasingly personalised customer experiences, as well as examples of HR teams are using candidate data to eliminate unconscious bias from their recruitment processes. Research in the US suggests that 83% of businesseswill require moderate data analysis skills for positions in non-data-specialist business functions like Finance, HR, Marketing & Sales and Operations in the next 5 years.

Clearly, demand for these skills in only going to increase — both for specialists Data Scientists and for people with technical data skills to complement more traditional non-data roles.

Closing the gap

The most immediate opportunity for closing the skills gap in the short term is to invest in upskilling the existing workforce to have greater data skills. With the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, organisations across the UK have the opportunity to minimise their exposure to the data talent shortage by investing in developing those technical skills across their workforce.

Corndel has partnered with Decoded, the digital education specialists to create the Data Fellowship to do exactly that. Our 18-month technical development programme is designed to take people with minimal experience of handling data from across business functions to have well-rounded data skills. We couple practical, hands-on learning with coaching from expert data scientists to deliver a high-quality and engaging learning experience that delivers tangible value for employers.

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