Whilst there has been in increase in demand for many skillsets in the technology world, the single most sought-after type of candidate for the next five years is going to be the data scientist.
Reports suggest that, in the UK alone, there will be 56,000 big data jobs created each year until 2020.
McKinsey and Company say that by 2018, there will be almost 200,000 unfilled data science jobs. The explosion in big data is what has led to this imminent demand. As more people create more data than ever before, the percentage of people who can effectively use this data (as opposed to the people who create it) grows dramatically smaller. Greater awareness of the business benefits of harnessing data have caused more companies to resolve to engage data scientists to guide them through the data minefield.
With a finite number of qualified individuals, there is already considerable competition amongst businesses to recruit the best - and the competition is only going to get fiercer.
As opposed to data analysts extracting business conclusions from a single source, data scientists examine multiple data streams to identify insights and trends on which their company can capitalise. Employing a unique skillset that marries mathematical modelling, business acumen, sociology and superb communication skills, data scientists isolate the areas in which a company can benefit most from harnessing their data and drive rapid progress.
The benefit is obvious with the finance, retail and e-commerce industries, but companies within other sectors, such as transport, pharmaceutical and petrochemical are beginning to turn to data scientists for advice on decisions relating to hiring practices and business performance. It's easy to see why companies would want to hire data scientists. It's less easy to see how they are going to manage it.
The rapidly rising demand is going to lead to the relatively limited number of data scientists being made substantial offers in order to secure their services. Very soon (if not already), recruiting companies will find themselves searching in an empty resource pool. Our advice to companies who feel they will need to engage data scientists over the next few years is to act now.
This is not a skillset that can be picked up quickly so hiring and quickly promoting recent graduates or self-taught prodigies, as has become the practise elsewhere in the talent-starved technology world, is simply not realistic. Whilst we can (and should) encourage the younger generations to pursue STEM subjects in education, this will not yield the results the industry needs quickly enough.
The only solutions will be to present the most appealing job offers for the ready-made data science experts, draw foreign specialists into the country (if legislation permits - and necessity may force changes on this front very soon!), or, for those companies looking longer-range, to invest in further education for their existing data workers.