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UK suffers from Big Data specialist shortage

More than three quarters say learning on the job and self-teaching are essential

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More than three quarters of Big Data workers in the UK are suffering from a lack of training, with the majority being forced to learn on the job in order to keep up to date with the latest skills.

It has been predicted that Big Data will create millions of new jobs and lead to greater project demand within the IT sector, but this does not answer the question about the supply of skilled workers.

According to a survey of 131 members of the “Big Data London” group by real time analytics company Acunu, there is a knowledge gap between Big Data workers and the decision makers commissioning Big Data projects.

Over a quarter of respondents said they do not believe business decision makers are currently exploiting Big Data within their organisation, with “underutilisation of Big Data” (66 percent) and “having unrealistic expectations for Big Data” (66 percent) being highlighted as key concerns.

If this problem persists, the UK may not be ready to seize the Big Data business opportunities in 2013, according to Acunu.

“It’s easy to look at a skills shortage and blame a lack of training on traditional educational routes, but when you’re on the cutting edge of technology, you have to be teaching yourself most of the time,” said Manu Marchal, Acunu director and Big Data London organiser.

The Big Data London community largely rejects the notion that “brain drain” is an issue for the UK Big Data industry. Only 13 percent consider outsourcing to skilled Big Data workers outside of the UK to be a cause for the shortage, and only 18 percent feel lucrative offshore roles are luring UK talent away.

This suggests that the UK is in a strong position to retain and grow its talent pool, if more British-based IT professionals are given the access to the software tools and skills most in demand, said Acunu.

Hadoop remains the most sought after big data sector skill. However, ‘Real-time analytics’ was also selected by 62 percent of the group, suggesting a shift in priorities. NoSQL databases Cassandra and Mongo, capable of real-time analytics, both came out as very sought after areas of expertise.

“Hadoop is becoming mainstream and it’s no surprise skills in the area are sought after, but it’s clear that the next wave is real time analytics, operational analytics, low latency analytics,” said Marchal.

Cost, often highlighted as a barrier to Big Data projects, was not a high concern to the community. Only 20 percent said Big Data projects were ‘too expensive’.

The Big Data London community was founded in February 2011 and currently has over 1,350 members.


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Charlie Hull said: Theres already a technical community who have spent years dealing with big data - the search engine people We regularly build systems that deal with hundreds of millions or even billions of data items with distributed processing and analytics Remember Hadoop was written by the same guy who wrote the Lucene search engine As to learning on the job - well thats a fact of life for any technical guy - Ive yet to meet anyone who popped out of a university course with all the information they needed to work on real-world projects

Ferenc Huszár said: with the majority being forced to learn on the job in order to keep up to date with the latest skills - this is what makes it fun for me Yes you need a willingness to learn and keep up with rapidly changing technologies But thats generally true for every sector where the technology and tools are rapidly evolvingThe fact that people have to learn on the job is to a large degree due to the fact that these software tools and analytic approaches are very new or indeed are in constant rapid development Even if you are fully up to date with everything today chances are a year from now half of it will be obsoleteI dont think that the problems cited here are unique to UK and I think UK is not particualrly badly positioned to take advantage of big data with several great universities offering courses in par with those in the US or elsewhere London has some of the biggest communities aroung Big Data Data Science Machine Learning and related fields and companies slowly start to recognise the value of data

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