We are living in the middle of a data explosion – a rich opportunity, but also a much
misunderstood one. In previous research, we showed that businesses which analyse their data intensively become 10% more productive than their average competitor. By contrast, collecting data on its own has little impact on performance.
Our newly published research, ModelWorkers, the first report in a project in collaboration with Creative Skillset and The Royal Statistical Society, looks at the data skills that businesses need to produce these impacts.
As a result, everyone is looking for the same ‘perfect data analyst’, or ‘data scientist’: a creative worker with analytical, coding and business skills, team working and charisma. These people are hard to find. Four out of five of the companies we interviewed say they struggle to find data scientists.
In Model Workers we identify interventions to remove these shortages. They include up-skilling established professionals such as statisticians, programmers and social scientists, developing vocational training in universities and encouraging more crossover between computer science, statistics and business disciplines. We also need to build up communities of data practice, and develop training and professional standards. Policymakers should make it easier for foreign students to work in Europe after completing data analysis courses.
In the longer term we need to improve the teaching of maths at schools, and change false perceptions of data work as boring and dull. Some of the most exciting and creative jobs across the economy today – from developing new games to discovering new drugs – are based on data, and we need to make sure everyone is aware of this crucial trend.