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US federal government lacks analytics talent to exploit big data

Survey: 96 percent of respondents see a data skills gap in their agencies

Washington, D.C. – WEBWIRE

Despite collecting, storing and managing masses of data as they perform mission-critical activities, federal agencies fall short in turning the information into insight due to a critical workforce skills gap. That is a key finding from Government Workforce in Focus: Closing the Data and Analytics Skills Gap, a new report aimed at assessing the nature of the skills gap and the challenges in closing it. The report includes a study underwritten by business analytics leader SAS and published by GovLoop that surveyed 283 public sector members of the GovLoop community.

The survey indicates that while the federal workforce is increasingly basing decisions on data, it lacks the data and analytics skills to translate complex data sets into useful knowledge for decision makers. Most respondents (78 percent) called data a significant component of their jobs, and 60 percent scored their use of data to make decisions above average. But a stunning 96 percent identified a data skills gap at their agency.

The report uncovered four key challenges to closing the skills gap:

  •         Inadequate training. The report, citing a McKinsey study, revealed a disconnect in the perceptions of educational institutions and employers. While 72 percent of educational institutions are confident that recent graduates have the necessary skills for the workforce, only 42 percent of employers agree.
  •         Evolving norms. To adequately use data requires a shift in thinking about organizational processes, workflows and responsibilities. Survey respondents wanted less ownership of data and more data sharing.
  •         Inaccessible data. Data is maintained in several locations and is not easily integrated using existing systems and tools. In fact, 74 percent of respondents identified “better integration of data sources” as the skill they needed most. 
  •         Insufficient funding. Although respondents identified funding to modernize IT solutions and invest in training around data as a major challenge, 55 percent doubted their agencies were actively addressing the data skills gap.

“It’s alarming that 96 percent of those surveyed – 46 percent of whom self-identify as experts or analysts – believe their agency has a data skills gap,” said Karen Terrell, Vice President, SAS Federal. “This report is a wake-up call for the entire federal community – agencies, Congress, contractors and educational institutions – to take responsibility. Without immediate action to dedicate resources to overcoming the federal workforce data and analytics skills gap, our nation will grow increasingly uncompetitive in the global community.”

SAS has provided innovative solutions – used in all 15 US federal departments – targeting the unique analytic needs of the federal government for more than three decades. To help close the government’s analytics skills gap, as well as a persistent gap across all industries, SAS offers numerous free offerings through SAS® Analytics U. The broad, global academic initiative includes free SAS software, university partnerships and engaging user communities that support the next generation of analytic talent.

For example, federal workers can join the nearly 150,000 people who have downloaded SAS University Edition, which provides free access to SAS Foundation technologies so that anyone, not just those in higher education, can use and learn SAS. Taking only moments to download and install, SAS University Edition lets users put the most current statistical and quantitative methods to work. In addition, free beginner e-learning courses – Programming 1 and Statistics 1 – help future data experts launch successful careers.

About SAS

SAS is the leader in business analytics software and services, and the largest independent vendor in the business intelligence market. Through innovative solutions, SAS helps customers at more than 70,000 sites improve performance and deliver value by making better decisions faster. Since 1976 SAS has been giving customers around the world THE POWER TO KNOW®.


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