- A new report from PwC is encouraging higher education to "build capacity and attract more students to" data science and analytics coursework, saying "every major industry" needs these capabilities to thrive.
- The report says hiring needs will shift to include a focus on these soft skills, such as data-driven decision-making, functional analysis, data engineering and data analysis.
- The report lays out four things higher education needs to do to meet this demand: leverage data analysis to create multidisciplinary hubs vs. discipline silos; promote data literacy for all students in all disciplines; strengthen ties with professional societies; and design courses and curricula to expand pathways for "a diverse analytical workforce."
One of the strongest arguments for a liberal arts education is that it exposes students to a variety of coursework that helps develop soft skills and prepare more well-rounded graduates who will then be more agile when they enter the workforce and better prepared for the demands of the workplace. However, a push towards specialization, competency-based education and the overall condensing of the higher education experience in the name of promoting four-year graduation for affordability's sake has compromised some of this development. There has been a shift from seeing higher education as a vehicle to develop well-rounded citizens to an institution that trains workers, but the two do not have to be mutually-exclusive.
Now, employers and higher education leaders are recognizing a skills gap in the American workforce and are working backward to identify ways to close it. Increasing pathways for data science and analytics is one important way to begin closing this gap, but the idea of redesigning higher ed curricula to eliminate disciplinary silos is important. Not only is it important to reconsider math requirements for fashion majors, for instance, but engineering majors should be encouraged to take courses in the social sciences and English majors should take accounting classes. Taking a cross-disciplinary approach to higher education will help prepare graduates to be not just workers, but productive overall citizens.