At the start of every year, websites love to put out lists of what is hot in the coming 12 months – and the skills employers are looking for is a common one. Well, I am a bit late in jumping on this topic, but I have looked at the lists and compiled a list of the ones I believe to be most relevant to higher education. So here is my list of top skills (in no particular order) that I think the sector will be interested in for 2017 and beyond:
- Statistical analysis/data science
- Data presentation
- Project Management
- Mobile development
- Business Intelligence
- Cyber security
- Cloud based systems
- Machine learning/artificial intelligence
- Data Governance
- Use interface design
1. Statistical analysis/data science
If data is now the most important asset in most companies, then having data skills is probably one of the best investments you can make in your development. It can be a daunting field to enter though – there is a lot out there, a lot of it very specialised (check out this route map if feeling brave). However, there are plenty of resources out there to help you learn, and it’s something you can immediately start to use.
2. Data presentation
You can have the best analysis in the world, but if you don’t know how to present it then you are unlikely to convince people to change. These skills can encompass how to use common tools properly (Excel, Prezi etc.) as well as design skills to help you convey your message.
3. Project Management
Project management has probably been on most lists for a long time, and for good reason. Organisations need people that can keep projects on track, within budget and on schedule. Sector knowledge is an asset for these roles, as well as any knowledge of external body requirements. If you are interested in project management, check out the UCISA project and change management group for events and networking focused on universities: https://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/pcmg
4. Mobile development
For applications that are designed for use by students, mobile compatible interfaces are essential. There is also growing needs for mobile apps that allow students to access services and their data. This trend has been growing fast, and is not showing any sign of slowing down.
5. Business Intelligence
Universities have a lot of data, but getting access to it, or being able to do something with it is often a problem. Some have invested in BI tools to help their staff use the data in a meaningful way, but this is still an area with potential for growth – not least in helping others use the tools productively.
6. CYBER SECURITY
Talent in cyber security is in high demand across most sectors, but with nowhere near enough people available. High profile breaches have raised awareness of the costs involved in a security incident, and with the new General Data Protection Regulation coming in, universities are going to need to invest more in this area.
7. Cloud based systems
Most of the main Student Records Systems suppliers are moving to cloud based provision, as are most software companies these days. There are distinct advantages to this – better security, reduced overheads, easier updates. There is a trend aware from having infrastructure specialists, and having more integration and development specialists.
8. Machine learning/artificial intelligence
Despite AI being largely developed in universities research departments, institutions themselves have been slow to use them within their own business. Some steps have been taken into learner analytics and data mining to predict learner success, but this can and probably will be taken further. JISC have done a lot of work in this area – check their recent update on learning analytics: http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6560/1/learning-analytics_and_student_success.pdf
9. Data governance
Good data governance is no longer a ‘nice to have’ element. With data levels increasing, and being used more, good governance is essential if an organisation is to have data that is reliable, accurate and consistent. There are many tools out there to help, but the most important aspect is trying to change the culture to one that is data fluent and understands the importance of good data management.
10. User interface design
Having a great system is pretty useless if your interface just makes people frustrated. Being able to design the screens that users interact with is a growing requirement. Data products are easier than ever to create, but they need an interface that is easy to engage with so that people can use them, regardless of their IT skills.