UK businesses warn a data skills shortage could block potential of big data

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in News

Four out of five of the 45 data-intensive businesses interviewed by Nesta are struggling to find the skills they need to meet growing demand, according to a new report authored by Nesta in association with Creative Skillset and the Royal Statistical Society.

Model Workers (PDF) finds that there is a shortage of data analysts who can transform big data into commercial value. It reports that data scientists – creative workers with a mix of coding skills, statistics and business nous – are particularly hard to come by.

Businesses interviewed for the report said that candidates lack hands-on experience and the right mix of skills (for example, having either statistical skills or coding skills but not both). The report found that companies are suffering a ‘crunch’ in the market for data talent, with some even offshoring their data analysis functions outside of the UK.

Model Workers makes recommendations for policymakers, educators and businesses alike to address these shortages, including upskilling existing professionals such as business analysts, statisticians and programmers, while building up the data analyst profession by developing training standards. It also recommends a longer term focus on the UK’s quantitative skills especially at school level.

Other recommendations include ensuring immigration policy allows UK companies to recruit data talent overseas, helping universities and schools understand what students need for work in industry and change perceptions of data analysis.

Hasan Bakhshi, director of creative economy at Nesta who co-authored the report, said it was ‘critical to communicate to young people that some of the most exciting jobs in the UK today are based on working with data – from making games to selling fashion.’

Hetan Shah, executive director of the Royal Statistical Society said, 'It's happened. We are now living in a data economy. The UK needs to skill up fast when it comes to data, statistics and analysis, or we will miss the boat.’ Hetan is chairing a panel discussion today at an event launching the report, featuring panel members Sanjeevan Bala of Channel 4, Francine Bennett of Mastodon C, Juan Mateos-Garcia of Nesta and Paul Ravenscroft of Boots.

The qualitative research in this report is complemented with a piece of quantitative research which is due to be published in the autumn.

Download the report, Model Workers: How leading companies are recruiting and managing their data talent here (PDF).

Big Data

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