Data Pathways: Creating Opportunities for Students and Building a Talent Pipeline

Learn how to build data pathways that provide students with job-ready skills for any industry.

Data Pathways Creating Opportunities for Students and Building a Talent PipelineIn the modern, technology-driven world, data is all around us. Data analytics is becoming a must-have skill set for learners looking to specialize in all disciplines, from human resources (HR) to sales to marketing and supply chain operations.

During a session at CompTIA Partner Summit 2023, Kenneth Sardoni, senior vice president, CompTIA learning programs, product development, CompTIA spoke with Dr. Joe Dery, dean of data analytics, Western Governors University, about building data pathways that provide students with job-ready skills that are critical for creating, managing and analyzing data for any industry. Here’s what they had to say.

What Does a Data Analyst Do?

A data analyst works closely with an organization’s data to assist in making better business decisions that provide insights and support decision-making efforts in various ways.

“Analytics is an umbrella discipline, so you’re going to get many different roles that merge under this thing called analytics today. In fact, at Western Governors [University], there’s ninety different job profiles that we look at, many of them outside of IT actually,” Dery said. “Only about 10% of the students coming into our analytics program actually want to go into IT proper, which is a big shift from where things were ten years ago.”

Data analytics as a discipline has experienced a pendulum swing. A lot of it is now more focused on how you influence business, the processes and change the way people work, Dery explained. Data analysts collect, analyze, clean and report on a plethora of data that an organization gathers and transform it into a digestible format for stakeholders and decision makers.

Data Fluency: Data Is Everywhere

In recent years terms like data literacy, digital acumen and data fluency have become more and more popular. “A part of that is because every role in a corporation is expecting some level of analytics [skills] now,” Dery said.

Dery explains analytics by using an analogy of three levers:

  1. Programming skills
  2. Statistics and mathematical skills
  3. Business influence skills

“If you’re building a foundation across those levers for [a variety of disciplines], then essentially analytics is becoming the new version of STEM in a lot of ways,” Dery said. “You can start to move those levers into different capacities, so you might have data scientists that are supporting marketing or data engineers that may be supporting a social media team, but the key point here is that there isn’t a focus on just IT anymore.”

If you’re just focused on IT and the technical then you’re looking at a very small piece of the pie of where the opportunities are for students, according to Dery.

How to get Data Analysts Job Ready

When we talk about preparing students for data analyst job roles you have to think from an employer’s perspective, where they’re confident that a data analyst has the skills and competencies to be effective in in-demand job roles. But you also have to think from a data analyst perspective, where they’re confident enough in their skills and can apply them in real world job roles, Dery explained.

When looking at developing programs that produce job-ready candidates, you have to set a foundation of skills across all three levers, according to Dery.

“You make sure that you have this full portfolio of skills where these analysts can actually affect change,” he said.

And you can start to do a lot of that via certification.

“We want to be able to show [both the students and employers] that they’re making progress and gaining competencies as they go. So, when you take something like [CompTIA] Data+, for example, we put that into our curriculum as a way to do two things. One, help the student to be able to tell the employer, ‘Yes, I have these competencies, here’s a standard metric that’s not unique to Western Governors [University], that will help you to gauge my employability and the skills that I have.’ The second thing is they’re earning that midway through their standard path in the undergrad program, meaning they can put it directly on their LinkedIn and on their resume and they can actually start to look for all of this career potential, and potentially moving into a new job, changing organizations, whatever it is, even before they get to their actual graduation date.”

Earning CompTIA Data+ not only helps to instill confidence in students as they explore what their future career path may look like, but it also drives equity for them when they go to the job market.

The Data Pathways

“CompTIA Data+ is the first certification in the data pathway at CompTIA, and we just released CompTIA DataSys+ on the database administration side,” Sardoni said. “And CompTIA DataX is in beta right now.”

Each of these certifications represents a different part of the pathway.

“When you start to think about the data analyst, it is creating that springboard. You’re getting a taste of mathematics, a taste of programming and a taste of the business influence,” Dery said.

Once they have that foundation, a student can decide which pathway they would like to take and if they’d like to advance their skills to move into other in-demand job roles like database administrator, data scientist or data engineer.

No matter which way you slice it, candidates with the skills and competencies needed to thrive in real-world data job roles are in demand. By offering a data pathway at your institution, you create opportunities for students looking to kickstart or grow their career and deliver in-demand talent to the global workforce.

Interested in partnering with CompTIA to create data pathways for your students? Learn more about CompTIA’s Authorized Partner Program.

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