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How data analyst training is changing

In this podcast, Robert McGrath, head of the University of New Hampshire's graduate program in analytics, discussed the current shortage of data analyst training programs.

Businesses are trying to address a growing demand for data analyst training, as the volume of information soars and the types of data broaden. Simultaneously, businesses must prepare for what lies down the road. According to Robert McGrath, head of the University of New Hampshire's (UNH) graduate program in analytics, that prep work includes the Internet of Things, dealing with the ever-widening range of device types, and methods for accessing and moving data.

Technology and requirements are moving up the analytic chain from descriptive analysis to predictive, and finally, to the "holy grail of prescriptive analytics," he said. These include what-if scenarios and being able to address client, customer and citizen change in real time. Finding people with the skills to address these needs simultaneously is a continuing problem.

A data analyst at this level simply does not currently exist, he said. "We've been training people in a discipline-engineering business -- statistics, mathematics -- and only are now starting to train people with an eye to … the real needs of industry, as it evolves with data."

With analytics a fast-changing, moving target, designing a curriculum to fit is not a simple matter, McGrath said. Traditionally, colleges have trained people and put them into the workplace, saying, "Here, I hope this is what you wanted." UNH's current thinking is to deconstruct that data analyst training model.

"We have a very diverse and changing world that's coming to us from a number of disciplines," McGrath said. "Bring those disciplines together and identify the key skill sets that we need in smaller chunks." This leads to module-based education that follows a near plug-and-play model in terms of data analyst training.

The approach is working well enough for major corporations to visit the UNH campus and talk directly with potential candidates in the field of cloud analytics. In fact, corporations are giving their IT employees sabbaticals and hiatuses to learn these analytics skills.

McGrath continued by describing UNH's analytics curriculum, as well as the increasing trend of longtime IT professionals returning to universities to acquire new skills in cloud technology and analytics.

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