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Skills of the Datavores: Talent and the data revolution

UK businesses need the right analytic skills to thrive in the big data era. This report identifies what these skills are, and the situation in the labour market for data analysts.

The 'big data explosion' requires new analytics skills to transform big datasets into good decisions and innovative products.

This report draws on data from a business survey to identify what these skills are, and the situation in the labour market for data analysts in the UK. Its ultimate goal is to improve our understanding of the value of analytics skills, and inform education and skills policy to ensure UK businesses have access to the talent they need to thrive in the big data era.

Key findings

  • There isn’t a one-size fit all to creating value from data. Our research reveals three types of 'Data active' businesses: Datavores who base their decisions on data and analysis, Data Builders working with big datasets, and Data Mixers who combine data from different sources. We also find 30% of 'Dataphobe' businesses who seem to have given the data revolution a pass.
  • Data-active companies (especially Datavores and Data Builders) perform better than the Dataphobes. Our econometric analysis reveals that they are over 10% more productive than the Dataphobes after controlling for other factors.
  • Data-active companies are recruiting more analysts, and combining more disciplines to build a data science capability. This isn’t proving easy: For example, two thirds of Datavores struggled to fill at least one vacancy. 80% of them identified problems in at least one skills area. Data-active companies are particularly concerned about the lack of domain knowledge in analysts, the lack of people with the right mix of skills and the lack of experienced analysts.
  • Technology is changing fast in the data space, and employers are keeping the skills of their data analysts fresh through a variety of approaches. 80% do internal training. Significant proportions (between a third and two thirds) are using innovative training methods like data competitions, online courses and meetups. Only a fifth use universities to train their staff.

Policy recommendations

Our findings have informed a policy briefing, Analytic Britain, where we set out an agenda of policy change covering schools and colleges, universities and the labour market with the goal of improving the UK’s analytics skills.

Authors

Juan Mateos-Garcia, Hasan Bakhshi and George Windsor

Authors

Hasan Bakhshi

Hasan Bakhshi

Hasan Bakhshi

Centre Director, Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC); and Executive Director, Creative Economy and Data Analytics, Nesta

Hasan oversees Nesta's creative economy policy, research and practical work.

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George Windsor

George Windsor

George Windsor

Senior Policy Researcher

George was a Senior Policy Researcher in the Creative and Digital Economy team.

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Juan Mateos-Garcia

Juan Mateos-Garcia

Juan Mateos-Garcia

Director of Innovation Mapping

Juan leads a team of data scientists, developers, visualisers and innovation experts who use new datasets, analytics methods and visualisation tools to inform innovation policy.

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