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CIOs casting a wide net for scarce big data skills

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Research firm Gartner has been warning of a massive shortfall in the number of people with the skills needed to capitalise on the possibilities offered by new data analytics technologies (aka ‘big data’). This, it says, is leading to CIOs scouring non-IT disciplines for the skilled staff they need.

In a blog post the global head of Gartner Research, Peter Sondergaard, said that evidence for this trend had emerged from Gartner’s recent canvassing of CIOs. “In our preparation for the upcoming Gartner Symposium/ITxpo series we have learnt that CIOs in leading organisations are seeking to overcome this skills shortage by recruiting from a much broader field of talent. CIOs are finding the problem-solving and analytical skills they need for their organisations among biology and chemistry based graduates, most notably those found in the pharmaceutical industry.”

So just how severe is the skills shortage? Extreme, according to Gartner. Last October Gartner estimated that by 2015 4.4 million IT jobs would be created to support big data and that, in the US, every big data related role would create employment for three people outside of IT. “Over the next four years a total of six million jobs in the US will be generated by the information economy,” Gartner said.

Gartner’s analysis is backed up by others. According to McKinsey & Co, by 2018 the US could be facing a shortfall of 140,000 in the number of people with advanced training in statistics and other disciplines to help companies realise the potential of big data. A recent survey by CareerBuilder found that jobs tied to managing and interpreting big data were among the "hot areas for hiring" in the second half of 2013.

In another sign of the growing awareness of the problem, IBM announced in August that it had added nine new academic collaborations focusing on big data and analytics to its more than 1,000 partnerships with universities across the globe. It said these were “designed to prepare students for the 4.4 million jobs that will be created worldwide to support big data by 2015.” The company also announced more than $US100,000 in awards for big data curricula.

According to IBM, the US Bureau of Labor predicts a 24 percent increase in demand for professionals with data analytics skills during the next eight years and the need for this specialised talent is fuelled by the explosion of big data. IBM described this explosion as “the 2.5 quintillion bytes of information generated daily from such sources as sensors, RFID networks, mobile devices and social media.” As a result, it said, “employers in every industry are seeking job candidates who can uncover insights from data to solve problems, act on findings, enter new markets and gain a competitive advantage.”

 

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