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Research suggests digital natives lack the data skills craved by employers

Worryingly, only 43% of young people consider themselves to be data literate.

Yessi Bello-Perez

Photo by Brian Suh on Unsplash.

Unleash Your Curiosity New research suggests young people — ‘D/Natives — lack the data skills needed to thrive in the workplace.

  • 55% of respondents said they could read, work with, analyze, and argue with statistics.
  • But only 43% said they considered themselves to be data literate.
  • The pressure is on to ensure that employers get the skills they need and employees are equipped with the right tools to survive and thrive in the future fo work.

Worryingly, only 43% of young people consider themselves to be data literate.

That’s according to new research by Exasol, a data analytics company, which surveyed 3,000 16-to 21-year olds.

Exasol’s research found that despite more than half of respondents believing that their ability to understand data would be as vital to their future as their ability to read and write, many felt they lacked the skills to do so.

Interestingly, 55% of those surveyed said they could read, work with, analyze and argue with statistics.

Adah Parris, futurist, cultural strategist, and contributor to the report, commented:

“Data literacy is about more than number crunching, it’s about being a storyteller. A narrator.

“As we create data, the data creates us. It is a non-linear process of inter and intra-connected storytelling. Data isn’t this complex, scary thing for technical people. Data is about facts and data literacy is the ability to recognize and interpret the patterns that those facts reveal. On that basis, D/NATIVES might actually be more data literate than they think.”

[Read more: A Deep Dive Into HR Data Analytics — And Why It’s Broken]

entering the future of work

The study raises questions about the role education plays in preparing young people to enter an increasingly data-driven workplace.

According to the study, respondents don’t feel their schooling goes far enough in teaching them data skills needed in the workplace. In fact, almost half (49%) believe working with data will play a major role in their future career.

In this vein, unsurprisingly, the majority (55%) said they thought learning data skills should be more prominent in their education.

“Maybe the role of the educator of the future is not to merely pass on facts (data) and figures but to help D/NATIVES to recognize the interconnectedness and transferability of skills within and across every aspect of their lives,” added Parris.  

The increase in data and the associated pressures of today’s business environment, means leaders want employees to be able to interpret data to make better, and more informed, decisions.

Helena Schwenk, a technology evangelist at Exasol, said: “Regardless of job descriptions, the ability to work with data is becoming increasingly crucial in the workplace. In theory, D/NATIVES should have developed the data literacy skills necessary for effective data analysis, storytelling, and visualizations.

“Their untapped potential could spur a revolution in the way we use data to transform business and improve our daily lives […] But our survey highlights two issues: a genuine skills shortage when it comes to the more complex data skills gained through the education system and a clear miscommunication between the language D/NATIVES use and the business jargon used by employers. There is work for educators, business leaders, and the young people themselves to do to bridge the data literacy gap—to create not just a productive workforce but also a richer society,” she concluded.

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