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HR can help your business solve its data skills shortage

Nick Jewell
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In the future, 9 out of every 10 jobs will require digital skills. Our world is becoming ever more digitalised, and the amount of data we generate is increasing at an exponential rate. Contributor Nick Jewell, Director of Product Strategy – Alteryx

The resulting mass of data demands a growing number of data scientists and analysts who can collect and interrogate the data to gain valuable business insights. However, nearly half (44 percent) of the European population lack basic digital skills.

A report by the European Commission explored the data talent gap, finding that 77 percent of big data roles were “hard-to-fill” and forecast that there would be a 160 percent increase in demand for big data specialists from 2013-2020. A similar report from The European Commission further estimated that Europe will need 346,000 more data specialists by 2020.

If like many European businesses you’re struggling to fill your data roles to enable data-driven business decisions, what can you do about it? Here are some tips on how to address the skills shortage within your own organisation as well as how to get involved with initiatives on a national and global scale. 

Unlocking Budget and Empowering the Next Generation

By 2020, the work force will contain a large percentage of millennials. If your business needs digital skills, it’s vital to engage with them and promote the relevant analytical skills developed in STEM education to ensure the workforce is prepared for the intricacies of your digital roles.

This has begun, but there is a long a way to go. A study from the FT earlier this year, found that in the US, data science specialisations are surging while regular traditional MBAs are in decline. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, 74 percent of the big data courses in the US experienced an increase, in comparison to the 32 percent of the two-year full-time MBAs. 

STEM subjects are well-paid and desirable so in many case it’s simply a lack of awareness that is discouraging students. Job opportunities are wide-ranging, and the possibilities for data specialists are innumerable. Additionally, the average data scientist today is earning £57,840 a year, according to Indeed.com. 

Topics can range from innovative farming to discovering the newest drug, allowing individuals with differing interests to tap into the markets which excite them the most. While data enables the pursuit of a multitude of stimulating jobs it is also integral to the growth and sustainability of our economy. 

In addition to focusing on education, HR can help businesses unlock additional budget for upskilling employees to tackle the data skills shortage without hiring additional employees. Organisations could invest in occupations with underlying data-centric skillsets such as business analysts and programmers. Such individuals could be encouraged to enhance their skills, either through self-learning, business-funded training programmes or sponsored degree courses.

Getting your foot in the data skills door

If you need a more immediate solution to meet a current business need, you may wish to consider tools which enable citizen data scientists. This role is not a substitute for true data scientists but instead allows companies to train people to handle tools and technologies created to combat the data skills shortage. Citizen data scientists are capable of using data model tools to deliver reinforced business decisions. 

With the expansion of data usage is the development of self-service analytics platforms; providing several tools and systems that enable individuals to interact with data in a professional setting. Such platforms allow the user to either develop technical proficiency in the data field through using code-friendly interfaces or to-opt for the drag-and-drop option which is entirely code-free. Self-service systems allow businesses and recruiters alike to look at a broader range of applicant, further benefitting the overarching data crunch.

Efforts need to be made to bolster both individuals’ interest in a career in data and the opportunities available in this profession. Organisations that are able to utilise their data assets, further promote an insight driven environment. Companies that can transition into a data-driven culture have access to data that can improve their business model.

While we won’t have the next generation of data scientists in the short-term, citizen data scientists are an effective medium for addressing an immediate issue. In the long-term, a collective focus on shared initiatives, businesses and governments can, over time, help you address an internal data skills shortage. The ultimate aim of the industry must be to have a sustainable, competent workforce that meets the demands for data analysis resources in the coming years.


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