Contrary to what many of us believe, data analysis and artificial intelligence (AI) aren’t just skills we’ll be needing far off in the future; they’re actually skills that are surging in demand right now across a huge range of industries. Advancements in machine learning and AI in particular are creating a paradigm shift in virtually every sector of the tech industry. And while AI’s extraordinary impact on productivity and our everyday lives is clearer each day with the release of the newest virtual assistant and video game software, the impact on the jobs market is what is set to be truly significant in the months to come.
What is data analysis?
We’ll start off with the basics: what actually is data analysis? Well, data analysis is an umbrella term for a range of skills that relate to the analysis of data to solve business, scientific, and technical challenges and problems. They include skills required for data mining, data management, the use of statistical software (such as SAS, WizardMac, SPSS, etc.), as well as applied analysis involved in producing business intelligence. The UK government also includes skills involved in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing in the data analysis skill cluster.
So, what is AI?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a broad branch of computer science that focuses on the study of how to make computers and machines perform tasks that typically require human intelligence.
AI algorithms are designed to learn insights and make decisions based on real-time data and the changing environment.
AI is used across a huge range of industries, job roles, and areas of everyday life, including computer opponents in video games, virtual assistants that recognise speech commands, and email inboxes that automatically clear spam. In the job market, AI is commonly used in automation, where computers can perform repetitive tasks that would typically take a lot of time to do manually.
How could data analysis and AI skills be beneficial to you and your career?
To put it simply, data isn’t going anywhere. The consumption and production of data will continue to grow exponentially, with the IDC predicting that the data we produce will have quadrupled between 2019 and 2025 to an incomprehensibly vast 175 zettabytes. Inevitably, the job market, which is intertwined with this increase in data production and consumption, will therefore expand, creating a wealth of new opportunities for digitally skilled workers. Like other in-demand digital skills, upskilling in data analysis and AI could therefore benefit both your current career prospects, as well as future-proof your career moving forwards.
1. Access to higher incomes
Let’s be honest, when you’re looking to digitally upskill, the potential for upping your income is often a key factor. Luckily, the UK government found that the average advertised salary of jobs in the data analysis skill cluster was £52,300: the second highest paying digital skills cluster in its report behind programming and software development. And with the 2020 Global State of Enterprise Analytics report finding that 75% of large enterprises and 59% of smaller organisations around the world plan to spend more on digital talent this year, the time to upskill is now.
2. Greater access to hybrid roles
Data analysis skills are often part of ‘hybrid roles’: roles that combine a mixture of skills that historically are not trained together, but have merged to create new jobs along with emerging technologies. Hybridisation was identified by the UK government as a key trend in the modern economy, so upskilling in data analysis, a skill which accounted for a quarter of UK digital demand, is a great place to start when looking to diversify your career path and break into hybrid roles.
3. Stay ahead of the competition and access high-level roles
Many organisations and individuals are now recognising that the digital skills gap is a problem as much as it is an opportunity. That being said, the digital skills gap is wide and covers a huge range of digital skills, some of which are simpler and easier for people to acquire than skills involved in artificial intelligence, for example. There is therefore a particularly big opportunity for people who already have existing digital skills to upskill in data analysis to fill the relatively specific and high-level roles associated with the skill cluster. Overall, jobs that have a focus on data analysis represent the third largest group of specific digital jobs in the UK and have a fast projected growth of 33%. So, with this huge demand far outweighing supply in the UK and an even bigger demand expected in the coming months and years, upskilling in data analysis could allow you to secure your future in a range of highly skilled roles and industries.
4. Acquire soft skills along with digital skills
Governments and organisations agree that graduates and skilled workers should not only strengthen their technical digital skills, but also their ‘soft skills’. Inevitably, by acquiring new digital skills like data analysis and AI, you will improve softer skills like logical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity. These soft skills are also hard to automate through machines, so it helps you to stay ahead of the game in industries that are automating and adopting machine learning quickly. They’re also skills which apply to a range of roles, so upskilling in data analysis and AI doesn’t mean you have to work in a job specifically related to those skills, rather you’ll open doors you may not have even known existed.
Why should businesses acquire people with data analysis and AI skills?
Workers that possess data analysis and AI skills (and the soft skills that inevitably come with them) can help to improve all areas of a business, from efficiency and productivity of systems to problem-solving and creativity. On an industry level, with data set to grow exponentially, the importance of skills such as data management, data mining, data visualisation, and the use of statistical software will become even greater in a very short space of time. Correctly harnessing data can help to achieve better, fact-based decision-making, improving both the working environment for employees but also the overall customer experience, which is a priority for many businesses, particularly during uncertain times like these. Investing in those skills within their workforces now will prepare businesses for the inevitable data-centered future.
At the moment, nearly a third of UK businesses (32%) say a lack of talent is a key barrier to more effective use of data analytics. If this has been an issue for your business, then providing your employees with the resources and tools to digitally upskill in data analysis and AI could be a great way to enrich your workforce and do your part to help bridge the digital skills gap.
What is the industry doing to help close the skills gap?
International bodies like the European Commission have made a commitment to try and fill the data analyst skills gap across Europe by running sessions exploring what businesses can do to address the problem. Businesses are also starting to react to the UK’s shortage of data analysis and AI-related skills by collaborating with other organisations and educational establishments to try and close the gap, for example SAS’s collaboration with HSBC and the Data Lab, which led to the introduction of an MSc course in Data Science for Business. The UK’s Office of National Statistics is also innovating to ensure the country has the resources and skills it needs to thrive digitally, collaborating with universities to offer a range of data science courses. However, we can all do our bit to address the digital skills gap by making the most of the opportunities and resources available to us and our businesses.
The data analysis skill cluster is one of the most in-demand digital skill sets in the modern job market. Acquiring these skills could not only open new doors, but also improve your job security and allow you greater control over the direction of your professional and personal life.
To learn more about data analysis and AI, along with our other top 5 digital skills for the future, take a look at the incredible sessions we’re offering at Digital Growth. This pioneering 2-day event, powered by Digital Women, is designed to provide everyone with the opportunity to access the resources they need to upskill, grow, and thrive digitally. Make sure you secure your ticket today!