New PwC Report Suggests Ways to Deepen Shallow Digital, Data Science Talent Pool

PwC U.S. Talent Acquisition Leader Rod Adams takes a look at why today's talent should have data and analytics skills to thrive.

Rod Adams

(PwC is No. 5 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list)

It doesn’t feel like that long ago that I was in college at Illinois Wesleyan University. But a lot has changed in the last 22 years.

When I went to college I didn’t have a computer or cell phone. Nobody really did. I left my desktop at home and like everyone else, used the computer lab when an assignment required it.

In my senior year when I began interviewing for jobs, I distinctly remember buying a suit for the first time because recruiting then relied primarily on face-to-face interaction. My suit was nothing to write home about, but my tie choice was exceptional. I may even still have it.

My ability to spot a good tie is one of the few things that has stayed the same since then. Technology didn’t come into play much in the interviewing process or the primary skills that companies wanted when I was entering the business world. But fast-forward a few years and now that I’m in charge identifying, attracting and hiring top talent for PwC I can tell you it is a primary driver.

Technology has transformed recruiting. From the use of social media and video interviewing to applicants relying on mobile devices over computers, we are all adapting and taking advantage of the benefits of technology. But there is one area where supply just isn’t keeping up with demand and that is in the area of digital and data analytic skills.

This problem is outlined in a new report just released by PwC and The Business-Higher Education Forum that studied the hiring market, looking for how employers hire for data science and analytics skills. It finds the skills gap for digital workers is already sizeable and will continue to widen unless businesses and educators find more systematic ways to close it.

The report says 70% of businesses say in five years they will always prefer candidates with data science and analytic skills to ones without them. But only 23% of educators expect their students to graduate with these skills in the same time period.

Accounting and audit skills still matter of course. But In this data driven age, it’s not just about being able to access information. We need talent that can pull insights from data to help us work faster and more efficiently. People are looking to hire those with data science skills, and those who can do analytics The most openings, according to this report, are in the areas of finance and insurance, information technology, and the professional, scientific and technical sectors.

So how do we narrow this skills gap? The report suggests several changes that can be made from a recruiting perspective.

Start structuring your people plan for the digital economy.

New approaches for recruitment and development need to be less defined by traditional career tracks and success in the analog world and more focused on skills that can further your company’s digital roadmap.

Consider different models for managing your talent pipeline.

This can include the creation of mentor-apprentice relationships as well as investment in talent exchanges. Up to 35% of the U.S. workforce is choosing freelance work so companies, including PwC, are finding it beneficial to curate a network of independent workers to help when needed. We call our marketplace the PwC Talent Exchange and it is extremely helpful in allowing us to be flexible and adapt to changing market conditions.

Recruit from within your own ranks

Many companies will likely find it is easiest to fill many of these jobs from within, the report suggests. That means modernizing your training and development and placing a greater focus on updating skills as part of your culture.

PwC is actively involved in trying to facilitate some of these changes – within our company and beyond. We are helping professionals enhance their business and data analytics skills through a new partnership with Coursera, one of the world’s largest online course providers.

And now we are unveiling our new Access Your Potential™ initiative to help boost the skills of a younger group of potential talent. This 5-year, $320 million commitment seeks to close the opportunity, education and skills gap by providing financial and tech skills curriculum to 10 million students, training and preparation help to 100,000 teachers and guidance counselors and mentoring and coaching in college and career prep to 10,000 students.

We are developing strategic partnerships with businesses, schools, and nonprofit organizations to make sure our efforts are reaching students, specifically minorities and those in underserved communities to help boost their financial and tech capabilities.

If businesses and educators team up on these issues together – we can prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.

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