“Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a voice.”

–Stephen Few, Information Technology innovator, teacher, and consultant

It’s an undisputed fact: Data science is suffering from a desperate shortage of talent. Experts offer up a plethora of reasons for the widening skills gap, but the situation boils down to this, as noted by Alex Woodie, “Thanks to their ability to use math and computer science to turn big data into business gold, data scientists are the rock stars of the advanced analytics world . . . ”

Experts expect the gap to widen as many industries move toward an era of increased utilization of digital everything. These statistics paint a vivid picture of the challenges facing the data science sector and the possible ramifications to the economy.

  • 60% of U.S. employers have job openings that stay vacant for 12 weeks or longer (Careerbuilder)
  • Nearly 80% of Americans agree there is a skills gap, and more than 35% say it affects them personally (Udemy)
  • The skills gap could leave a damaging $2.5 trillion impact on the U.S. economy over the next decade (Deloitte)

What’s Ahead for Data Science?

Key drivers impacting the data science labor market worldwide, according to a 2018 World Economic Forum survey of chief human resources officers and CEOs, representing 15 million employees across industries, include:

  • Due to technological advances, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, and ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet, which will promote automation, boost efficiency, and support new business models, nearly 50% of organizations surveyed expect a reduction in their full-time workforce by 2022.
  • While automation will displace an estimated 75 million jobs, 133 million additional new roles could emerge in large multinational companies, with complementary trends expected in small and medium enterprises.
  • As the adoption of technology accelerates, 85% of respondents expect to adopt big data analytics by 2022, while 73% plan to take on machine learning, and 45% are looking to add blockchain technology.
  • Predictions claim the changes will impact the geography of production, distribution, and value chains, as 59% of respondents expect to modify production and distribution of their products significantly; nearly half plan to alter their location over the next five years.
  • By 2022 a need for proficiency in new technologies will spike as 54% of represented employees will be required to gain new skills. Expect increased demand in the “human skills” area of creativity, critical thinking, sophisticated problem-solving, emotional intelligence, and leadership.

 “The most successful organizations, in my view, will be those that pull change towards them rather than those that try keeping it at bay,” states Jacky Carter, group digital engagement director for strategic partnerships at recruitment firm Hays.

Meeting the Challenge

Do you think a “no strategy” approach will let you slide by? Think again. Without a policy primed to address and ready to implement, no business can expect to weather the skills gap without a significant negative impact.

“Many continue to rely on informal techniques, like internal networking, to identify gaps in skill sets instead of leveraging data to understand the current skills and capabilities of their workforce,” notes Visual Workforce

A well-defined strategy will aid companies in defining their workforce needs as well as in communicating those needs with educators who can then implement effective training programs. Without an effective plan that addresses each of these areas, how can recruitment needs be aligned with educational opportunities? How will gaps in the workforce be met without a functioning strategy? They won’t be.

“Bottom-line: Your company must have a strategy to address the skills gap hindering your workforce’s potential,” concludes Visual Workforce.

Strategies to Bridge the Gap

1.     Invest in skills planning

The first step, says Visual Workforce, is to invest time and effort in identifying and tracking the current skills and capabilities of your workforce. Doing so will highlight skill gaps and provide direction for how your workforce needs to change or grow.

“You will know your employees’ exact strengths and weaknesses for both hard and soft skills, allowing you to develop a data-driven foundation for your action plan,” advises the Visual Workforce team. “Use your insights to develop training programs, align recruiting needs, collaborate with educators, or outsource skills. Whatever path you choose to take to address the gap, your investment in skills planning will ensure your skills align with the needs of your workforce.”

2.    Look for people pondering a career change

Considering the attention data science is receiving, people employed in technology or engineering jobs may be interested in moving into this promising field.

“We look for people from boot camps that are career changers,” says Pat Ryan, executive vice president of enterprise architecture at technology consulting firm SPR. “These people have a work ethic and confidence in themselves to switch from a career that they know to go into something completely new.”

Ryan notes that although this approach involves a much longer-term investment, these folks often possess the people and situational skills that can be difficult to find.

3.    Leverage mentorships and build centers of excellence

“One tactic is to partner new talent with mentors who understand the business,” says Roger Park, EY America’s Advisory and Financial Services Office innovation leader at the advisory firm. “Every good data science department needs three things: people who know how to write algorithms, people who know how to program those algorithms, and those who have business acumen.”

This is where the business world can step in and pick up where academia ends. By creating analytics centers of excellence within an organization, like-minded individuals can challenge one another, sharpening their skills to the fullest potential.

 “Closing the skills gap will require change. Businesses will need to structure hiring and workforce planning less by traditional skillsets and more by the set of DSA skills needed to build cohesive, multidisciplinary teams that can deliver business results,” advises PwC. “For higher education, there are great opportunities to build capacity and to attract more students to DSA coursework, helping them prepare for the changing nature of work.”

Because RomAnalytics specializes in market insights, data analytics, data engineering, and positions that support insights and analytics, including sales, marketing, and client services, we are poised to make your talent acquisition and job search smarter. Do yourself a favor by connecting with us today!