Workforce must meet data science demand

Terms such as "data science" and "big data" are popular buzzwords in today's world, as enormous amounts of information are increasingly generated, communicated, stored, shared and accessed, mostly via digital systems.

Data science draws upon elements of statistics, mathematics and computing science for use across data management, modelling, analysis, interpretation and visualisation. It also involves effective communication of findings and decision-making that is driven by data.

Data science is behind the scenes, for instance, ranking the most relevant websites for your personalised search, filtering out your email spams, recommending movies, songs or new social media friends that you will probably like.

It also detects fraudulent transactions on your credit card, assesses your loan default risk, predicts when aeroplane parts will need maintenance, and helps identify biological mechanisms associated with certain diseases, just to mention a few applications.

Similar to previous industrial/tech revolutions, the advances in analytics capabilities and the widespread use of big data and machine learning technologies are already substantially changing the job market landscape and will do so even more dramatically in years to come.

In the past, steamed and electrical machines replaced hand production methods and were eventually followed by programmable robots.

We adapted and survived as society with new professional activities emerging as others became obsolete. For instance, machines that replaced manual labour needed machine operators, many of which were eventually replaced by more qualified workers with the software and hardware skills required by computer automation.

One of the striking aspects now is the frenetic pace in which things are changing, which is challenging the workforce in an unprecedented way. Qualification and constant upskilling are now more important than ever. In particular, those with skills to harness the data deluge are in high demand. Job growth in data science is booming around the world at an unprecedented rate.

One of the striking aspects now is the frenetic pace in which things are changing, which is challenging the workforce in an unprecedented way.

According to a 2018 report from Deloitte, Australia's data science workforce is set to increase by around 38,000 people over the next four years at an annual average growth rate of 2.4 percent, which is higher than the forecast of 1.5 per cent for the country's total labour force.

In summary, data scientists are wanted. The challenge is to qualify the workforce in order to keep up with an increasing demand.

Professor Ricardo J. G. B. Campello is Program Convenor of the Online Master of Data Science at the University of Newcastle.