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Teradata Offers Free Big Data Training

Online education program offers free courses to help college students earn Teradata tech certification.

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Hey, kids, want to learn data analytics for free? Database software company Teradata has a Web-based certification training program for students seeking a career in data-focused professions.

The online program, which debuted in August, is offered by the Teradata University Network (TUN), a free Web portal that provides educational tools to teachers and students in data warehousing, business intelligence and decision support systems, and other database-related topics.

The free courses allow students to study to become either a Teradata Certified Professional (for those seeking IT careers) or Certified Associate (for business-oriented types who want a conceptual understanding of Teradata technology). The online information includes assignments, articles, case studies, PowerPoint presentations, research reports, software and other materials.

"We're offering students free access to the training, and they get a 50% discount when they sit for the official certification test, which is administered outside of our company by a third party," said TUN director Susan Baxley in a phone interview with InformationWeek.

Certainly Teradata's free training offer isn't entirely altruistic, as more Teradata-trained professionals would likely boost usage of Teradata products. But for students already leaning toward a data-driven career path, the company's offer has its merits.

[ How can universities help meet the growing demand for data scientists? See Big Data Education: 3 Steps Universities Must Take. ]

One might assume that TUN's online program would draw mostly tech-inclined students, but Baxley says that's not necessarily the case.

"We ran a pilot with students earlier this year before rolling it out globally," she said. "A lot of the students coming in didn't have as strong a technical background as we would have suspected, but we found that when they completed the training, they were pleased with the level of knowledge they had ... and were able to achieve certification."

In a student certification pilot program in spring 2012, undergraduate and graduate students who completed the free online training course and examination had little or no prior experience with the Teradata Database or Teradata data warehouse platform, the company says. Of those students who passed the exam, 80% became Teradata Certified Professionals, and 20% earned Teradata Certified Associations accreditation. The pilot program involved a "small number" of university students at Arizona State University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Georgia.

Training programs such as Teradata's could help offset the expected scarcity of data-savvy workers and analysts. A 2011 study by the McKinsey Global Institute predicted that the U.S. could face a shortage of up to 190,000 data scientists by 2018.

The student certification program is TUN's latest offering, which is used by more than 45,000 students worldwide, the company said.

"Teradata has been providing the resources for the University Network for over 10 years," said Baxley, adding that the certification program "is just an expansion of what we've been offering as a company."

Many companies today are looking for data analysts with deep technical knowledge, a keen business sense and good communication skills. The ability to process, filter and analyze unstructured data sources, such as sensor readings and social media posts, is essential to a career in big data.

"These different sources add to the complexity that companies have to deal with on a daily basis," said Baxley. "The more we educate students to understand the definitions of big data, the better equipped they'll be when they get into their careers."

Nearly a third of TUN students access the educational website weekly and use it for hands-on experience with software, according to a Teradata University Network survey from May 2012. And 68% of TUN students want to achieve Teradata certification, the survey found.

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