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Business Schools Are Bridging The Gaping Big Data Analytics Skills Gap — Here's How

Universities are key to plugging holes in the digital economy

The global demand for digital skill-sets such as big data analytics is outstripping supply across all sectors. But business schools believe they can close the gaping talent gap.

The UK needs another 745,000 digital workers by 2017, a report from the government warned on Monday — and universities are key to plugging similar holes the world over.

“It’s so important for business schools to have [digital] programs, in order to train professionals from different backgrounds to become data scientists,” said Juan José, a former head of IBM Strategy & Analytics, who runs IE Business School’s business analytics masters. “There is a demand for big data expertise.”

Duke’s Fuqua School of Business last month launched a data analytics masters degree.

Meanwhile, Wharton School in March launched an MBA major in business analytics and MIT Sloan rolled out a data analytics masters degree. And in April, Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management began teaching a big data course to MBAs with Lutz Finger, LinkedIn’s analytics chief.

Yet industry leaders have criticized business schools for being too slow to adopt tech-focused curricula. Many are held back by bureaucratic processes and a lack of faculty experts.

“We need to provide training for young people in schools, colleges and universities. The next generation requires solid foundation in areas like analytics, business intelligence and data management,” said Laurie Miles, director of global cloud analytics at SAS UK.

McKinsey & Company forecasts a shortage of 1.5 million data managers and analysts by 2018.

“It is critical to understand the value of data in today’s economy,” said Mark Skilton, professor in the Information Systems and Management Group at Warwick Business School.

Employers, from Boston Consulting Group to Google, are desperate for business graduates who can harness the power of big data.

Jake Cohen, senior associate dean at MIT Sloan, said: “Recruiters have said they are looking for training in advanced business analytics — Amazon, Google and Facebook are looking for people who can take insight to action.”

Moocs, or massive, open online courses, are increasingly important here. “We must enable people already in employment to retrain or up-skill in order to meet the demands of the changing workplace,” said Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors.

Employers once viewed Moocs with scepticism, but they have warmed to digital platforms like Udacity and edX as they have professionalized their education. Among the most popular courses are those related to data science.

“People are hungry for data science skills,” said Julia Stiglitz, director of business development at Coursera, the biggest Mooc platform. 

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