Big issues to tackle in 2017: the looming skills crisis

data-science-1It may seem like the stylus is stuck on the record, but much like vinyl, the skills shortage does not seem to be going away any time soon. Yet while more youngsters are waking up to the joy of the LP, getting them to study science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects at A-Level, appears, in the words of Prince Buster – and Madness, of course – One Step Beyond.
But for long-term campaigner Edwina Dunn, the queen of the UK’s data industry, the issue is no laughing matter. Earlier this year, she backed a campaign to show young people the benefits of studying Stem subjects amid warnings that the UK is facing a “lost generation” of potential data professionals.
The launch of the “Your Life” campaign, backed by Dunn, the CBI, and businesses including Shell and Ford, followed the release of a report which claimed youngsters are ditching technical subjects because of outdated career advice and pressure to achieve high grades.
The campaign is working with the UK’s 5,000 secondary schools to promote Stem, connecting schools with industry through trips and outreach programmes in a bid to educate both students and teachers alike.
The DMA and IDM are also attempting to tackle the issue and have joined forces with the Graeme Robertson Trust to woo potential agency creatives with a new “speed dating” mentoring programme, designed to get students to consider a career in the direct marketing industry.
And, as they say, proof of the pudding is in the eating and anyone still struggling to get the message across could do worse than cast an eye over two recent studies.
According to The Business Grammar Report, which asked UK business leaders to detail the most important competencies in the workforce today, data and analytics are now two of the most important skills UK firms crave – surpassing even multilingualism – with those in the know commanding salaries which are 30% higher than data celibates.
Conducted by Alteryx, it showed that one of the key drivers is the fact that data is no longer “confined to the IT department or technical specialists”. Just 15% of UK businesses are still doing it the old-fashioned way, while almost a third (31%) are empowering their employees with self-service analytics tools.
The need for these skills has increased so much that more than three quarters (79%) of business leaders believe data analytics should be a part of MBA programmes.
Meanwhile research from recruitment specialist Robert Walters revealed employers are placing an increasing focus on data-driven marketing, looking in particular for management-level specialists in this field.
Mid-level professionals who have the experience necessary to implement data-driven marketing strategies are likely to be in high demand in the future.
However, there is a sting in the tail – one in five employers believes that Britain’s decision to leave the EU will exacerbate a skills shortage in the industry.
Robert Walters associate director of marketing recruitment Ed Glover said: “Despite economic uncertainty following Britain’s decision to leave the EU, a significant number of employers are still planning to recruit marketing professionals. However, these efforts may be hampered due to a widespread perception that top calibre candidates will be difficult to source.”
It seems that for Dunn & Co, another Seventies classic – Curtis Mayfield’s Keep On Keeping On – is more fitting.

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