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Three Ways to Close the Big Data Skills Gap

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You don’t have to look hard to find evidence that there is a extreme and growing gap in the marketplace for workers with the skills needed to complete Big Data projects nor do you need to look far to find evidence that Big Data and Analytics are key to nearly every company’s strategy to define their competitive advantage in the future. According to IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, data is the next great natural resource and companies that fail to harness that data will miss enormous opportunities.1

According to McKinsey, “The United States alone faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts to analyze big data and make decisions based on their findings.”2 Also, checking the job trends using, you can clearly see the rapid rise in demand for big data skills based on job descriptions.3


It’s clear that much needs to happen to close that skill gap, in fact, IBM and others have formed academic alliances and programs designed to build up the pool of talent available – for more on this you can read IBM Narrows Big Data Skills Gap By Partnering With More Than 1,000 Global Universities.

But what can you do now to help narrow the skill gap and prepare your organization for the Big Data demands of tomorrow? The good news is that Big Data technologies and science are accessible to many of the IT folks and analysts you already employ. Employees with programming skills, database skills, data warehousing skills and data mining experience should top your list. However, you must ensure that you are constantly pushing your employees (both technical and non-technical) to learn these new technologies and moving them up the learning curve. For example, here at IBM, we recently issued a Big Data Open Source Skills challenge to over 1,000 employees.

The Big Data Open Source Challenge:

  • Prescribed two learning paths (programming vs. non-programming)
  • Included informal learning (such as videos, PDFs, PPT decks, and books such as Understanding Big Data and Harnessing the Power of Big Data)
  • Required at least 12 hours of formal self-paced hands-on learning in the programming track

As a result, we have improved their skills and readiness to participate on real-world big data projects by a significant factor.



One excellent resource is the ever expanding Big Data University which offers courses (in most cases FREE courses) to get technical folks started on the path to big data skills. In addition to the excellent hands-on course called Hadoop Fundamentals I, several more focused courses have been added over the last few months to help your workers come to grips with the myriad of technologies under the Hadoop umbrella. Some examples of the types of courses you can find here include:


Of course, choosing the right technology is also critical success factor in implementing Big Data solutions – IBM InfoSphere BigInsights, Streams, Data Explorer and many more are market leading products that are well suited for the task and if you need to build really deep skills for the implementers on your team, there is nothing better than immersive hands-on training focused on getting you from zero to ROI as quickly as possible. Through IBM’s Global Training Providers, you can acquire the formal training you need tailored to the role of the employees participating and in a format that works for your team (traditional classroom, virtual classroom, or self-paced). These courses teach the specific critical skills you need to master IBM products. Review the IBM Big Data Training Paths for more information on the courses available which include:


Another excellent resource is the IBM Information Management Skills YouTube Channel which includes several videos designed to help IBM customers build skills – not only in a single technology, but also showcasing how to use products in combination to achieve the desired solution – as Big Data projects become more and more mainstream and mission critical it’s important to ensure that the data has integrity, security, currency, and stability. A few examples of the videos you’ll find here include:

The journey to Big Data skills begins by taking a first step. Challenge yourself and your employees to learn more today! Bookmark these great resources and get started today – new offerings are published frequently so check back often!

  1. Big Data University
  2. IBM Big Data Training Paths
  3. IBM Information Management Skills YouTube Channel

1AConversation with Ginni Rometty Council on Foreign Relations. March 7, 2013.

2McKinsey Global Institutereport on Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity, May, 2011, job trends based on keywords found in job descriptions across thousands of job sites. Here’s a link to run the trend report for big data.

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