The Great Analytics Talent Shortage: Fact or Fiction

There are some bright spots on the data science talent front as universities step up to help fill the talent pipeline through new analytics programs.

Emmett Cox, Customer Experience Executive in Banking, Retail Analytics Consultant

May 11, 2016

4 Min Read
Credit: Pixabay

I have been hearing about the great talent shortage for years now, and I’ve even been guilty of adding to the hype. With so many industries trying to adopt all things Big Data -- new sources of data, more volumes of data, new types of data, etc. -- How are we supposed to keep up with all things BIG?

Sure many of us have grown up being able to adapt to new and continual change (it’s actually fun and challenging), but for the most part businesses need new talent, with the latest skills and training to flex the data to new heights. We need to fill the ranks with Bright-Young-Digitally Enabled- Skilled analyst. They are those who don’t know the boundaries of what was possible 5 to 7 years ago; those individuals that have grown up with immediate access to news 24x7 across multiple devices.

Now we can talk about supply and demand, as that is the real crux of the matter. Too much demand and not nearly enough supply. It seems every industry now wants a data scientist (without really understanding what that really means), but they need at least one. There must be a shortage of college programs dedicated to advanced analytics, as there just is not enough talent to fill the demand.

Well, I need to update my thinking and adjust my perspective. I’ve been speaking to many recruiting organizations about the state of the analytics industry, just normal touching base to maintain an industry perspective. What I have been hearing is that there are many young extremely intelligent highly degreed individuals out there. An even bigger surprise was the fact that a majority of these candidate are from the States. So, OK, strike that notion that you need to include people born outside of the US to get the high scholastic credentials required to be a good analyst. The salaries required to attract and keep these individuals is increasing (as demand increases). But be aware, many data professionals and recent graduates that were Analysts two years ago are now data scientist. So, the term data scientist is becoming somewhat diluted. A recent query on LinkedIn brought back 36,000 hits, with the majority being job postings.

One common topic has been around the lack of analytics curriculum from the universities, and the lack of support provided by leading analytics corporations to showcase and “feed” the curriculum. Again I need to re-adjust my perception. At the SAS Analytics 2014 event, there were 14 universities present as sponsors. All with new or existing analytics/data/statistics curriculum geared towards business and decision sciences. The studies' names included “Department of Information Systems & Decision Sciences,” “Institute of Business Analytics,” and “Institute for Advanced Analytics”.

In 2015, the SAS Analytics event -- reshaped as Analytics Experience 2016 this year -- drew more than 15 universities. It was interesting to note that Texas A&M had analytics, statistics and online programs being highlighted, and all separated studies. Some of the new programs included statistics and data mining. I was fortunate to be able to speak with many of the university delegates who were recent or near term graduates to gauge whether they feel properly empowered to hit the business world. These students were not starry eyed youngsters who had no sense of the real world. They had been in the trenches working on many key business initiatives with no budget and a short window. These four, five and six-month-long assignments were graded by the business on practicality and ingenuity.

In full disclosure, since I am currently residing in Alabama I did spend more time with University of Alabama: Culverhouse College of Commerce. These students and graduates wanted a challenge, they were very adept at turning the conversation back around. Instead of me asking questions around their perception of success, they were asking me about what I see on the analytics horizon, what new big things are coming soon. How does decision science play a role in senior management strategic planning? Just a side note, I was told that the vast majority of graduates from all of these universities are hired before they graduate: Supply and Demand.

I give SAS big thumbs up for giving these scholastic institutes for higher learning a vehicle to showcase their strengths. They have, for eight years now offered the opportunity for the academic community to compete in the “Analytics Shootout”. The shootout gives students and faculty a venue to showcase their skills. The output from these has been extremely impressive.

I don’t see the demand for analytics talent, both experienced and recent graduates, slowing down any time soon. I also expect the hiring to continue being a blend of experienced professionals along with the recent graduates. As the industry continues to evolve with more data sources, new types of data, and better ways of gaining insight from disorganized text/conversational data, we will see a greater demand for both graduates and professionals alike.

So, fact or fiction; I guess the existence of a talent shortage depends on your success of finding and hiring the talent you need.

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About the Author(s)

Emmett Cox

Customer Experience Executive in Banking, Retail Analytics Consultant

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