What’s the next step for employers and educators who want to move the data analytics field forward? That’s the question that top industry leaders and educators discussed during a Wharton town hall titled, “The Future is Now: Closing the Data Analytics Skills Gap.”
Put together by the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative (WCAI) and nonprofit WorkingNation, the event kicked off with a keynote address by LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue. He spoke about why it’s so important to fill the analytics skills gap before handing off the talk to further panelists from Comcast, PwC, the Gates Foundation, Penn Health, Morgan Stanley, and more. In the end, they all came to the same conclusion; data analytics job opportunities will continue to grow, so the need for data analytics skills will increase in proportion.
The good news is that valuable data skillsets can come from different backgrounds. According to Allen Blue, “Data scientists who came from physics or biology discover and invent new things, whereas somebody who came from a data science program would use a tool they already knew about.” Even history and English majors have the creativity, critical thinking, and high EQ to work in the data analytics field.
However, opening up data analytics positions to a broader range of backgrounds is only the first step. There’s also a need to close the gender gap and to enrich data analytics education, which means building it into core curricula as early as possible. Melanie Harris, the chief information officer of the Philadelphia School District, spoke about the K-8 digital literacy program, and how it’s introducing the gamification of coding by the second grade.
But what needs to be at the forefront of all this change is employers hiring people based on skills over pedigree. According to Jake Schwartz, the co-founder and CEO of General Assembly, “I think in the future, we’re going to find really creative ways of putting together talent needs with potential alternative pools of talent, and figuring out how to use education as a bridge to get people [where] they want to be and where the companies really need them.”