data science

Half (49%) of young people fail to consider data science as a career option

Nearly ten years ago, Harvard Business Review famously labelled data science the sexiest job of the 21st century. However new research from Exasol, the leading high performance analytics database company, suggests data science careers are rapidly falling off young people’s radars — despite data roles ticking a lot of boxes in terms of the skills and activities young people want from a future career, businesses and educators aren’t communicating the importance and application of data in easy to understand terms.  

Exasol’s research of more than 1000 16- to 21-year-olds in the UK (coined D/NATIVES by Exasol because of their everyday digital skills) found that half (49%) don’t consider data science as a career option. When asked about their future plans, 61% of D/NATIVES say they have a clear vision for their career. The most popular skills they want to feature prominently are communicating (39%); decision making (34%); problem solving (33%); finding information (32%); asking questions (30%); telling stories (23%); and maths (20%). All very relevant data science skills. In fact, they all align to five of the top words D/NATIVES used to describe the key characteristics of a data scientist; mathematical, problem solving, analytical, intelligence and confidence.  

Yet, despite clear awareness of the impact data and statistics have on their life, many young people are not familiar with jargon such as data literacy (51%) or big data (50%), demonstrating a clear disconnect between the language D/NATIVES use and the business words used by employers to advertise data careers, leading them to fail to consider the data science field as a career option. 

Commenting on the findings, Peter Jackson, Exasol CDO said,

“Ten years ago, data scientists were in demand thanks to their ability to plug a crucial skills gap and tackle new organisational challenges stemming from the growth of business data. Today, the demand for data scientists and data engineers has more than tripled since 2013.”

The good news is that the respondents to Exasol’s survey possess a lot of relevant soft skills that are crucial in helping organisations realise the full value of their data. Peter Jackson added, “In data teams there is room for all sorts of people, from the technical masterminds to the data storytellers that articulate the meaning of that data and turn them into actionable insights for the business.”

There is work for businesses and educators to do to make young people aware of the context, opportunities and risks surrounding data – demonstrating its power in our everyday lives. How we collect data, how and when we give it away, how it’s used and the potential it has never been more exciting and can no longer be shunned as a career option.

“D/NATIVES have untapped subconscious and habitual data literacy skills ideal for data analysis, storytelling and visualisation of key trends, patterns, and anomalies. Without these future data champions, businesses are in danger of missing out on new ways to solve data challenges today and pushing the boundaries of industry as we know it,” Peter concluded.  

More insights into the attitudes and understanding that young people currently in higher education or just entering the world of work have towards data can be found in Exasol’s report: “D/NATIVES: The future of your business.”

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