The Great Data Literacy Gap

The Great Data Literacy Gap

Analytics platform Tableau and Forrester Consulting announced new findings from a commissioned study, The Great Data Literacy Gap: Demand for Data Skills Exceeds Supply, to help better understand the gap and what can be done to close it.

While recruiters rated data literacy skills as the most important to have in the workplace, only 48% of academic institutions have data literacy skills initiatives in place.

The study found that "While 96% of education decision-makers say they consider which skills recruiters value when designing curriculum, only 39% say they have a strong understanding of what recruiters are looking for today." Academics ranked data skills second to last in order of how successful institutions are in imparting workplace skills that they feel are effectively preparing students for the workforce.

However, when human resource recruiters and academics were surveyed to assess the skills needed in the workforce versus what was actually being taught in the classroom, they found that data skills have risen in importance over the past five years and the trend isn't likely to stop soon.

Recruiters ranked data literacy as the skill in the highest demand for entry-level candidates today. In addition, they said it is the skill that has grown the most in-demand over the last five years and will increase the most in importance over the next five years.

Everyone from human resources and marketing to sales and customer support will need to have at least a solid foundation in data literacy in order to succeed in the modern workforce. Which is why it is more important than ever that universities help bridge this gap and incorporate data literacy training in all academic departments and across disciplines.

Key recommendations

For enterprises, building an effective workforce equipped with the proper skills to succeed is no easy task. It requires input from organizations at many stages along the employee growth cycle and begins with bringing in entry-level employees with the right skills.

For the academic institutions that train these entry-level employees, there’s room for improvement when it comes to equipping students with the skills they need for a successful entry into the workforce. A lack of appropriate data skills is one of the biggest pain points for employers when it comes to recruiting graduates. Organizations have to train people in skills they should have at the moment they come to the door, which is frustrating. It’s putting academic institutions at disadvantage, too.

Work on bridging the gap.

Those academic decision-makers in charge of curriculum development should be in regular dialogue with recruiters to ensure they understand what today’s employers need, expect, and perceive as the biggest gap. This can be done informally through existing networks or via a more formal advisory panel.

Make sure that all students are data literate.

If the curriculum for non-science subjects doesn’t contain any modules that cover at least basic statistics and analytics skills — as well as an introduction to relevant tools — those in charge should make appropriate updates their highest priority. If you’re offering math or statistics courses to non-science students already, ensure they’ve been updated to be fit for purpose in the current environment. Also, find opportunities to weave a data element into existing courses — all subjects have a data angle to them.

Think beyond the curriculum.

Consider offering extracurricular training programs, put help centers in place, and make sure you invest in at least some of the latest technology so students will know what to expect when they enter the workforce.

Article published by icrunchdata
Image credit by Getty Images, DigitalVision, Robert Daly
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