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11 May 2016
Data scientists are "as rare as unicorns", proclaimed a Guardian piece last year looking at the shortage of the specialists at a time when big business is increasingly switching on to the benefits of harvesting its statistics.
That may be a slight exaggeration, but there is no doubt that there is a scarcity of professionals capable of analysing data, and engineering it for tangible business benefits. The amount of customer data large organisations hold is truly staggering, and in an age in which digital marketing has come to the fore, the potential of it to power business development drives has never been bigger.
That's why these large companies are prepared to pay big money for the right data scientists, but the problem is, some are good at one half of the job, but not the other - for example, many are adept at analysing the data, but not at putting it to effective use in the sales, marketing and IT arms of a company, and vice versa.
What we usually see with the emergence of these 'recruitment holes', is that they are eventually filled thanks to an upsurge in training courses and programmes created to meet the demand for prospective pupils. It appears that there is a lot of catching up to do - according to the US News & World Report’s Top 100 Global Universities, less than one-third offer data science courses.
We are also likely to see more big data-specific courses, as colleges and universities aim to make the subject more vocational, and relevant to the modern day business world. Looking further down the track, schools and other undergraduate institutions might become more keen to teach pupils about big data at an earlier age.
Companies could begin to look at working with what they have. There are many data analysts that are trained in examining statistics, and we could see these individuals trained up, either internally or externally, and moved in the direction of data science.
There's no doubt that the big data skills shortage in Europe will take a while to address, but the rewards are simply too high for there to be a problem in the long term.