From education to employment

The importance of creating a data literate workforce #FutureofEducation

Kevin Hanegan, Chief Learning Officer at Qlik

The working world that the children of today will enter will not be the same as their parents.

Yet, while this has been the case throughout history, it’s clear to see the pace of this change increasing rapidly.

In the space of a few short decades, digital technology has moved from its use in a small set of highly specialised tasks, to an inescapable part of our working lives.

What underpins this digital revolution is data.

The last few decades have seen an explosion in data along with rapid adoption of sophisticated data analysis tools, including machine learning and artificial intelligence, that is completely transforming the way that we interact with the world.

From banking and insurance to healthcare, manufacturing and marketing, data is being used to unlock new possibilities and redefine boundaries across the globe.

That’s why, in a world increasingly powered by data, data literacy will be as important as literacy itself and an organisation’s ability to succeed will be heavily dependent on its employees’ abilities to learn this new language.

A vital force in a disrupted workplace

As data becomes a vital force in our world, we’ll see some jobs displaced altogether, whilst some will evolve and adapt to meet this data-driven climate.

However, it’s becoming clearer that there’s a divergence between the pace of change in the job market and the inertia of our education system, with £141.5 billion of UK growth by 2020 at risk from a lack of sufficiently skilled workers.

Indeed in 2019, schools are still found to be teaching, largely the same subject matter as they taught in 1969; it’s clear that young people are not being adequately prepared for this data-disrupted workplace.

We recently conducted research which found that only 17% of 16-24 year-olds in the UK report being data literate and 35% of those in work already say they are overwhelmed by the use of data in their roles.

What we found even more worrying is that digital skills are diminishing just as students need them most. In the UK, the number of computing or ICT qualifications sat by pupils dropped 45 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

This woeful skills investment is not only impacting young people in the workplace. The services and sheer amount of information that we consume in our everyday lives are also being shaped by the rapid onset of new technologies.

As a result, 16-24 year-olds are struggling to navigate the digital world, with Qlik’s Global Data Literacy Survey finding that many report being overwhelmed by data sets used in the news (34%), banking (40%), social media (36%), health and fitness (28%), and politics (25%).

Fundamental flaws in the education system

To set young people up to successfully interact with the data and machines that will play an increasingly important role in their lives, action must be taken to address the fundamental flaws in the education system and bring learning into the modern day.

Those who can read, work, analyse and argue with data when they leave education will undoubtedly flourish in the future workplace.

While it’s unclear exactly what this future workplace will look like, we can assume that automation, robotics and artificial intelligence will play an integral part, and data is the universal language of this new world.

That’s why, we need a workforce that can ask questions of machines and use data to build knowledge, make decisions and communicate its meaning with others and this can only be done with an education system that has been brought into the 21st century.

Kevin Hanegan, Chief Learning Officer at Qlik

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