Desperately Seeking the Data Scientist Unicorns

A look at the realities of the analytics skills gap and resources to support businesses

By Stephen Keelan, Director of Education, SAS Canada and Mark Morreale, National Lead Academics, SAS Canada.

It’s estimated that by 2018, the U.S. will face a deficit of 140,000 to 190,000 employees with deep analytical skills—those who drive strategy—and 1.5 million analysts to interpret and use those findings. The Canadian Big Data Consortium estimates Canada’s deep skills gap at as much as 19,000, and a gap of 150,000 in the analyst roles.

As enterprises increasingly recognize the value of the vast volumes of data they collect, the demand for people who can unlock that value will unquestionably rise. One of the main reasons why the supply of data scientists is so tight is that most people don’t have the right combination of skills, a set that involves statistics, science, business and computer programming in addition to creativity and a love of data.

A lot of businesses think they can fill the data science position with one individual, equipped with all the aforementioned skills ready to solve every big data challenge. In reality those people are really hard to find and in most cases few candidates possess the long laundry list of requirements.

Companies faced with an analytics skills gap might be better off hiring a team of scientists, with each person being responsible for one aspect of the analytics process. If you can split out the function and have people who are on the programming side and the analytics side then you might be able to fill the job roles more easily.

There is little debate that the analytics skills gap is real. We see it every day from businesses requesting job fairs in an effort to meet top graduates or in the analytics graduates that get hired before they’ve even finished their studies.  Because data scientists a rare—and expensive—commodity, we often encourage businesses to look to the resources outlined below in an effort to help train and build their team of data scientists, because collectively they may put a realistic spin on the “unicorn” data scientist.

Resources for Canadian Businesses Facing the Analytics Talent Gap

Data Scientist Program

SAS has developed a number of approaches to build an Analytics enablement program that’s right for your organization; enabling you to build the skills needed to create or advance your Data Scientists.   The programs can be thought of from 3 main approaches.

1) Custom: SAS Education works with you and your team to understand the need, assess the current skills and build an enablement plan that is custom and tailored precisely to the type of data you work with, the type of Analytical questions you need answers to and how you want this information presented by your Data Scientists.  This is a roll up our sleeves and dig in approach that creates a highly focused program with specific, targeted results and timeframe in mind.

2) SAS Academy for Data Science: From a more formal and prescriptive approach, SAS Education has created an industry recognized Data Science Certification program which is, as you may expect, comprehensive and extensive in the courses, project work and Certification testing.  There are 2 levels to this program: 1) SAS® Certified Big Data Professional 2) SAS® Certified Advanced Analytical Professional; completing both levels leads to the SAS® Certified Data Scientist.  Visit the global SAS site here for details.

3) Data Science for the Business User: SAS has also created more of an entry level version which the industry is referring to as the Citizen Data Scientist.  Here traditional business users are starting to experiment, prototype and look beyond the old reports and analysis, see Bernard Blais’ article on this emerging trend.  SAS Education has developed a 5 day course to address this audience, debuting in the Netherlands and coming to the SAS Canada schedule later this fall; see here for details.

Working with SAS, we can help you develop and train your analytics team with the skills and talents they need to solve the most complex business issues. Through SAS Training, mentoring, User Groups, E-learning, Webinars and more, SAS can work with your organization directly to develop a customized curriculum plan to advance and refine the needs of your data practitioners. Contact Stephen Keelan, Director SAS Education Canada to discuss what options and approach will be best for your organization or visit the SAS Canada training page to find courses and training that’s right for you.

Finding new talent

SAS works with 65 universities and colleges across Canada and supports over 6000 students each year to help decrease the analytics skills gap. SAS has cultivated strong relationships with the top analytics programs in Canada and is dedicated to connecting students with Canadian corporations and organizations looking for new talent. Whether it be via job placements, networking events, competitions, and speaking opportunities, SAS enables our customers to connect with and hire leading edge analytical talent that’s intent on making an immediate impact on their organization. For more information on this please contact Mark Morreale, Academic Program Manager at (416) 307-4643 or visit the SAS Canada Academic Program Page.

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Read More

Whether you want to find out what data scientists do, hear from some real-life data scientists or learn how to become one, check out all the articles in our Data Scientist Series