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Tech Employers Say Soft Skills are Top Hiring Factors for Data Analytics Jobs

We all know big data is big. More and more businesses and governments are capturing, analyzing and interpreting huge amounts of data to boost organizational performance, promote new discovery and understanding, enhance decision making, and tackle public policy and societal challenges.

All that growth has led to extremely high demand for employees with data analytics skills. Just last year, Glassdoor named “Data Scientist” its hottest job, with “Data Engineer” and “Analytics Manager” not far behind.

Nationwide, data occupations have been a critical employment driver accounting for 31 percent of total private sector job growth over the past decade. Data occupations currently account for 7.8 percent of all employment nationally and are projected to grow substantially moving forward.

This demand for big data employees has reached the Greater Washington region, where the U.S. Department of Commerce report ranked D.C. Virginia and Maryland among the top five states for data industry concentration. And 2015 research by McKinsey & Company ranked Virginia number one in the nation and Maryland number three in terms of the percentage of big data workers within each state’s workforce.

So what does it take to land one of these in demand data analytics jobs? Some may be surprised to learn that tech skills alone are not enough.

The Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) recently published a report highlighting the current and future workforce skills requirements of the Greater Washington technology sector.

Based on employer surveys, interviews and a traditional gap analysis, the Greater Washington Technology Workforce Needs Assessment highlights local technology employers’ most in-demand positions and the associated skills required of new hires. Not surprisingly, the research shows that big data and analytics is one of the highest demand technology job types, along with software development, cybersecurity, data center and cloud infrastructure and network systems.

The most in-demand positions may not surprise you, but the top skills employers look for might.  In data analytics, as well as the other areas, a large majority (more than 80 percent) of employers surveyed rated soft skills, particularly communication (written and verbal) and problem solving and critical thinking, as the most important skills in their hiring decisions. While tech skills were considered important, employers indicated more willingness to train prospective employees on specific technology-related tasks.

What does this mean for anyone looking to get into the data analytics industry or educators training the next-generation big data workforce? Tech skills alone are not enough. Prospective employees must be able to demonstrate that they can think critically, see the big picture and communicate with others. And academic providers should focus on more than just teaching the latest platforms and software.

You don’t have to be a data analyst to recognize that big data and analytics will continue to impact almost every industry. The potential is huge. In the technology sector we now have an opportunity to work together to ensure the pipeline of big data workers is prepared for the opportunities ahead.

That’s why NVTC has launched our new Tech Talent Initiative. Through this effort, we are sharing the results of the Workforce Needs Assessment and working collaboratively with technology employers, academic partners, state and local government, and nonprofits to help ensure that academic programs are more closely aligned with the skills and competencies employers tell us they need.

The talent needs of the data analytics industry were highlighted at the 2017 Capital Data Summit. The inaugural event featured keynote speakers and panels offering unique insights on the future of big data and analytics, including critical challenges such as funding, ethics and workforce.

Contributed by: Bobbie Kilberg is President and CEO of the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC), a position she has held since September 1998. NVTC is the largest technology council in the nation with about 1,000 member companies employing 300,000 people in the Potomac region. In December 2001, she was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) during his term in office. Kilberg is a graduate of Yale University Law School (J.D.), Columbia University (M.A.) and Vassar College (B.A.).

 

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