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Big Data Skills Shortages Drive Demand For Business Managers

A dearth of managers skilled in big data and analytics is fuelling a demand for new hires to fill 56,000 big data jobs each year until 2020.

Mon Nov 3 2014

A surge in demand for big data expertise in the finance, banking and retail sectors has created a shortage of skilled management and professional talent, according to new research released last week.

Approximately 56,000 big data jobs will be created in the UK each year until 2020, pushing the rate of job growth in data and analytics to 160%, according to research published by Tech Partnership, the employers’ network, and business analytics firm SAS UK.

But the research shows a serious skills shortage, with three quarters of employers reporting big data positions were either “fairly” or “very” difficult to fill.

Big data is being billed as the next frontier for business and its use has thrived as companies in sectors including financial services, technology, media and retail reap the benefits of using consumer data to assess market trends.

Business schools including HEC Paris, Yale and Kelley School are going to great lengths to educate their MBA and master students in big data and analytics.

Professors say that MBAs are well placed to capitalize on this gap in the employment market. IT services firm Gartner predicts that by 2015, 21% of all large companies will employ chief data or digital officers.

Financial services was the most commonly cited employer in big data advertisements in 2013, accounting for about 20% of all positions, according to the Tech Partnership/SAS report. Banking was mentioned in 5% of all adverts. Banks have used data analytics in price modelling, risk management and even in counteracting fraud.

Mark Wilkinson, managing director of SAS UK and Ireland, said that big data analytics is the “new oil” that will power the information economy, adding that big data analytics allow valuable insights that inform business decision making. 

He said that as the “Internet of Things” – connecting vehicles, household appliances and other objects to the web – takes off, big data will become mainstream.

But Karen Price, director of Tech Partnership, said that there is a shortage of skilled people coming into the big data industry, which is a “significant growth area” for the UK economy.

“With the number of available jobs in big data increasing every year, it’s vital that we attract new talent into the industry to ensure that businesses have the skilled staff they need to grow and be successful,” she said.

Of an estimated 2,200 big data positions advertised by respondents to the survey, 77% were said to have been difficult to fill.

Tech Partnership thinks that investment in education and training opportunities is vital to securing a strong talent pipeline for the digital economy.

SAS has invested more than £100 million in the UK to support universities and develop the next generation of big data professionals, and wants to offer free software to all students this year.

More business schools have begun teaching big data and analytics in their courses, including Oxford Saïd and Wharton, and the Indian School of Business which runs an analytics certificate program as well as elective courses.

“As companies seek help with integrating new technologies in their business strategies, we find significant demand for these skills,” said Deepa Mani, assistant professor of the information systems group at ISB.

“In the last two years we've seen companies and consulting firms seeking to hire for explicit roles in business analytics.”

Tech Partnership’s research showed that big data roles in the UK last year were concentrated in England, where 96% of all positions were advertised. More than 60% were based in London.