How we can prepare the UK today for tomorrow’s tech jobs

The excel guru of 2015 is about to give way to a new breed of data analyst, but how can we train for the skills needed in this new data-driven economy?

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Data analysts will soon be taking a front seat in every business department

Today’s business environment is not simply fast-paced, the technological innovation lifecycle is so quick that the latest technological trend can reach maturity, saturation and obsolescence within months.

Businesses need to be agile enough to make the most of the technological advancements as quickly and as efficiently as possible. As with the technologies they use, the same applies to skills in the workforce - it’s not a matter of learning once and being set for life. Businesses and employees alike need to ensure they are constantly learning and improving their abilities to meet new demands and execute the digital transformation many companies are undertaking.

This is by no means an easy task. With technologies evolving around us at an unprecedented speed and with digital trends that we have not even dreamt yet, the potential is almost endless.

> See also: Top 8 trends for big data in 2016

A wide variety of job roles are already starting to emerge or evolve from existing roles that will only become more essential and sought after. These include data analysts, web developers and integration experts as just a few examples.

Experts! We need an expert, anyone?

With the sheer volume of data expected to be present in an organisation, and the different processes that will be needed to organise and utilise it effectively, a number of experts will be required to head up efforts to do so.

One example would be integration experts who would ensure that data solutions and analytics from a variety of sources can be successfully integrated into an overall transformation strategy.

Take for example wearables which are likely to grow in influence within organisations over the next ten years. Experts will be required to not only introduce this technology to the business, but to provide comprehensive advice and skills in utilising it effectively.

Developers of experiences

One role which is already essential and constantly evolving is that of the developer. Every business has a website and many have apps. These need to be not only kept fresh and functional, but adapt to constantly evolving user behaviors.

This means being able to evolve for multiple devices and form factors across multiple channels. The challenge will be marrying those experiences to provide a consistent and seamless experience across each as businesses adopt an omni-channel approach. Those developers able to do so, will be the most sought after.

Analyse this

Another role that has been discussed at length is that of data analysts. This role has been particular lauded owing to the sheer possibilities and challenges afforded by the growing amount of big data available to organisations.

The problem with using the catch-all term of data analyst is that it is far more complex owing to the understanding, processing and consolidation that are required to manage big data across the whole organisation.

The role of a data analyst therefore encompasses a variety of positions including technical analyst, marketing analyst, financial analyst and more. In addition, the role will change fundamentally as these professionals will be using more sophisticated tools and techniques than we see today.

The ‘excel guru’ of 2015 will soon give way to a new breed of analyst capable of implementing a multi-dimensional view of business with historic data; trending and social data; predictive and complex rules and analysis.

Start at the classroom

In order to cover the multiple dimensions in which technology touches upon and transforms all business functions, the training of experts in tomorrow’s technologies needs to be as versatile and granular. The classroom is the obvious place to start. 

This means more investment in computer science and the better uptake of these kinds of subjects should be central to any discussion around education As the UK nears full employment, availability of the right talent is getting harder and harder.  

This is where education can play a role more important than ever before. Preparing people for the work force is no longer just about the 3Rs or a ’trade’.  Manufacturing today is different; these days coding is manufacturing. Delivering services is also the new manufacturing where human talent and resource is the raw material of choice in a service industry.

What does this mean for the UK education system?

There is no doubt that over the last few years there have been positive steps in order to adapt the education system in this country to the needs of the economy. However, there is plenty of scope for improvement. While computer sciences and coding are being taught in schools as part of the curriculum, more time needs to be committed at the earliest age possible.

If not, we run the risk of computer sciences in the UK being as fragmented as the teaching of foreign languages; a couple of hours a week as an acknowledgement we should be teaching these skills but not enough to create real proficiency.

> See also: Do you have what it takes to be a data leader?

Programming languages such as JavaScript are the business languages of tomorrow and education should reflect that.

There are positive signs in the shape of projects like the raspberry Pi, BBC micro:bit and Scratch but these just form the base we need to build on.

Leading innovation

The UK does not lack talent - far from it! The country has a strong economic and education heritage and continues to churn out real success stories. What is needed is a more strategically coordinated approach that will recognise and subsidise the courses that are vital to the country’s industry, like engineering, over those that have very little impact on the economy.

We can definitely do more to nurture success and ensure we are at the forefront of innovation. As talent is the lifeblood of any organisation, we need to work to identify and cultivate it early to give people the best chance possible of becoming the next Alan Turing or Tim Berners-Lee.

Part of this comes down to creating an excitement around STEM subjects by showing what these skills mean in practical application. Creativity and forward-thinking are the key drivers of innovation and the ability to inspire these will determine who will be the leaders of tomorrow. 

Sourced from Mark Armstrong, Vice President, Progress