Ireland needs data scientists: EMC makes the case for STEM courses

29 May 2012

EMC has warned that Ireland could face a skills shortage in big data analytics, whereas a commitment to education in this area could make the country a worldwide data hub.

A report last year from McKinsey & Company showed the demand for deep analytical skills in the US could outstrip supply by 50pc to 60pc in 2018. EMC predicts that Ireland will follow a similar pattern if steps are not taken to drive more students to computer and engineering courses adapted to emerging areas such as big data analytics.

“If this pattern is emerging in the US, it will not be long until it is repeated in Ireland and we need to be ready,” said Jason Ward, EMC’s country manager in Ireland. “If we are not, Ireland will be overtaken by other economies and we will miss out on the big data opportunity and cost the country jobs.”

Three recommendations for skills development

EMC makes three recommendations towards fostering the development of these skills in Ireland. The first is to tailor educational programmes to draw together multi-disciplinary strands across mathematics, computing, science and sociology. Secondly, EMC believes that applied science should be added to the Leaving Certificate curriculum, with a specific industry focus and cross references with other subjects.

Finally, EMC believes that a strong government-led effort is required to generate greater public awareness of IT-related careers, and to demystify science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) programmes.

“In Ireland, as EMC supports companies through their IT and business transformation journey, we will need more cloud architects and data scientists. Big data analytics can become a new jobs-rich source of activity for our economy, enabling huge data sets to be compared side by side at lightning-fast speeds to generate business insights,” said Ward.

Potential to be a big data innovation hub

Last year, the number of companies investing in Ireland for the first time increased by 30pc and more than €700m in new research and development investments came to Ireland. “Many of these new and existing companies will need computer programmers, software developers, engineers, and support technicians with languages, as well as specialists in areas like big data and cloud computing, which are part of the innovation revolution sweeping the world,” said Ward.

With eight out of 10 of the largest ICT companies in the world located in Ireland (including EMC), Ireland clearly has many benefits to offer these firms, and excelling in big data could be the key to further growth. “Our ‘natural’ advantages of English language, geographical location and talent pool are key,” said Ward. “Government investment in innovation, and supports for research and development initiatives, are making it easier for companies like EMC, with the help of IDA Ireland, to invest here. Ireland can produce the next EMC, Google or Facebook – and becoming a big data innovation hub could be the catalyst.”

The IT industry’s newest recruit

Ward believes this can only happen if we can meet the advanced the IT skills requirements of the data scientist. “The data scientist, the global IT industry’s newest recruit, is an exponent of competitive intelligence, an emerging field that demands a specific skills set that includes data mining and analysis, advanced mathematics and statistics, behavioural patterns recognition, and business or sector-based knowledge,” he said.

“This means that our college courses and public policy instruments need to be agile enough to adapt quickly to the skills requirements of big data analytics because, with technology evolving at pace, we will need specialists who can deploy it to deliver insights to private and public-sector organisations.”

Concepts image via Shutterstock.

Elaine Burke
By Elaine Burke

Elaine Burke was editor of Silicon Republic until 2023, and is now the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. Elaine joined Silicon Republic in 2011 as a journalist covering gadgets, new media and tech jobs. She later served as managing editor before stepping up as editor in 2019. She comes from a background in publishing and is known for being particularly pernickety when it comes to spelling and grammar – earning her the nickname, Critical Red Pen.

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