The pace of digitalization has increased manifold, thanks to the pandemic times. Digitalization continues to grow and the advent of data science as a prevalent technology continues to add value. Data science forms the base for a myriad of initiatives. Naturally, this opens doors to not just better career opportunities but also for startups in this space.
According to Coursera’s 2021 Global Skills report, India ranks 66th globally in both data science and technology and 67th worldwide. While India has made significant strides in the field of data science, its current ranking leaves a lot to be desired. If India wishes to continue to retain its name as the hub for startups to set up shop on its soil, it will require a far stronger emphasis on training and education, spawning a more robust, skilled talent pool in the future.
Ensuring quality education in high school and college goes a long way in bridging this huge gap between demand and supply of skilled talent in the data science industry. The buck doesn’t stop there, the companies also need to look at training and programs where the talent is enabled to excel. This process requires private players, industries and professionals to join hands by stepping up their game.
Start young; equip public schools
There is a dire need to spruce up the public education system to create an environment that provides for awareness of possibilities and potentials in various fields. To build an Indian cricketer like Sachin Tendulkar (regarded as one of the greatest batsman in the history of cricket), he needs to begin training as early as five years old. The same is true for other skills.
We need to change the way we approach education where we could introduce fundamentals of skills like data science from a very early stage. We must look at introducing mathematics and programming at the grassroots level. Colleges and universities should look at focussing on data science as part of the curriculum so that the students are provided with a robust, comprehensive, and universal data science foundation enabling them to compete with the best. The focus of nurturing young talent in data science should not be limited to finding a job but should also move towards producing entrepreneurs who can think laterally.
Attract top talent to teach in universities
According to a UN report, India has the world’s largest youth population. It is a mine of talent. To mold this talent, it is imperative to have quality teachers. It is time we realize the true potential of teachers and respect them. While the industry does witness some great teachers who come for the sheer love and joy of teaching, to create momentum, much needs to be done. We could start by compensating them fairly, it must be at par with the corporate world. Higher salaries would mean setting up processes when it comes to hiring the best of the teachers and imparting quality education.
Good teachers inspire students to find their inner passion and point them in the right direction to develop skills in this field. This goes a long way in ensuring the development of talent for skills like data science. Of course, at the end of it, this also gives rise to the need for nurturing talent and ideas in colleges and universities in the form of incubation centers, centers of excellence, and the like. This would form a great foundation for the startup ecosystem too.
Dedicated courses are the need of the hour
Data science education in India is still in its infancy, and it’s hard to find universities or educational institutions offering a degree in the subject. Very few of the data science programmers working in the industry come with an in-depth knowledge of the underlying math, statistics and programming skills — a minimum requirement to be a full-fledged data scientist. While plenty of short-term courses exist, the quality of these programs varies. It’s hard to find courses that are customized and provide a solid foundation.
By providing quality courses, it’s not just the job market that is benefitted, the entrepreneurial talent in the field of data science is nurtured too. India, known to be a hub for startups must look at enabling young talent to take that leap to the entrepreneurial space.
Upskilling and reskilling
Changing the curriculum and education system is a good strategy but a slow process. Depending on a massive overhaul of educational institutions as the ‘only strategy’ may not serve the ever-evolving technology industry in its entirety. Reskilling / upskilling is the need of the hour to keep up with relentless advancements. That’s why it’s important for professionals and companies alike to invest in learning and development to build their human capital.
Also, each company has its own style of developing solutions in data science. At Drishti, we hire the best and brightest minds in the country. Then, as a part of the training period, we have a robust program in-house, developed and taught by the top talent in the country, after which the resources are deployed.
As an industry, we will need to upskill / reskill a significant number of engineers. It is not just the question about making entry-level people smarter and better, the key will be reskilling and upskilling the vast numbers of professionals with pre-existing skills in the industry. This will help companies transform and meet the growing demand for data scientists in India.
In a country like India where it is a challenge to manage population when it comes to providing basic infrastructure, data science is aiding the government to work efficiently. R&D in the healthcare space, digital transformation in the PSUs, arriving at meaningful insights using UIDAI data – all contribute to the effective functioning of our economy, thanks to data science. Clearly, the 21st century will be known for data.
The job market has changed drastically in the last few years. There is a significant gap between the demand and supply for skilled professionals who can handle and manage such massive data sets. The solution to bridging this gap does not lie in the government’s hands alone. The corporate giants should look at investing heavily in building educational facilities which will help train dedicated data scientists under rigorous programs designed to meet industry requirements. They can also set up institutions for imparting skills and theoretical knowledge to both freshers and understudies related to big data analytics. This will not only benefit companies but also provide a conducive ecosystem for startups to flourish.
The article has been written by Dr. Krishnendu Chaudhury, CTO and Co-founder, Drishti