IBM Narrows Big Data Skills Gap, Partners With Universities

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2013-08-15

IBM Narrows Big Data Skills Gap, Partners With Universities

IBM has added nine new academic collaborations—focusing on big data and analytics—to its more than 1,000 partnerships with universities worldwide.

IBM is doing its part to narrow the big data skills gap by helping to prepare students for the 4.4 million jobs that will be created worldwide to support big data by 2015. The company also announced more than $100,000 in awards for big data curricula.

As part of IBM's Academic Initiative, the company is launching new curricula focusing on big data and analytics with Georgetown University, George Washington University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Missouri, as well as a new addition to IBM's partnership with Northwestern University. Internationally, IBM is partnering with Dublin City University, Mother Teresa Women's University in India, the National University of Singapore and the Philippines' Commission on Higher Education to offer data-driven degree programs, coursework and specialization tracks.

"It's no secret that harnessing the power of big data can provide organizations with a competitive edge, and the tools to obtain these insights are readily available," Richard Rodts, manager of global academic programs at IBM, said in a statement. "The challenge we must overcome now is narrowing the big data skills gap that exists, which is why IBM is partnering with universities across the globe to provide students with the needed big data and analytics curriculum to make an impact in today's data-driven marketplace."

IBM also announced the winners of its 2013 Big Data and Analytics Faculty Awards in which 14 university professors from around the world will receive $10,000 each for top-rated curricula designed to develop the business and technical skills required for data-crunching jobs. The winning proposals include programs focused on computer science/electrical engineering, business administration, economics, strategic management, and math and statistics.

According to IBM, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 24 percent increase in demand for professionals with data analytics skills over the next eight years. The need for this specialized talent is fueled by the explosion of big data—or the 2.5 quintillion bytes of information generated daily from such sources as sensors, RFID networks, mobile devices and social media.  As a result, employers in every industry are seeking job candidates who can uncover insights from data to solve problems, act on findings, enter new markets and gain a competitive advantage.

IBM's big data collaborations with universities span a variety of majors, including business, marketing, mathematics and health services—providing schools with access to IBM big data and analytics software, curriculum materials, case study projects and IBM data scientists who visit classes as guest lecturers.


IBM Narrows Big Data Skills Gap, Partners With Universities

For instance, Dublin City University (DCU) is teaming up with IBM to create a new Masters Degree in Computer Science with Big Data, Business Analytics and Smarter Cities. The Masters in Computing (Data Analytics) course content has been developed jointly by IBM and DCU to equip students with deep analytical skills to support the changing face of business and will help graduate students develop critical IT skills for urban analysis, consumer behavior, social networks, sentiment analysis, health care and network security.

Meanwhile, the George Washington University School of Business is partnering with IBM to launch a Master of Science degree in Business Analytics this fall. The University of Missouri College of Engineering's Department of Computer Science will offer a new undergraduate course, titled "Big Data Analytics," in the fall 2013 semester. Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies, which launched two analytics graduate degrees last year with IBM, is expanding big data curricula in two of its continuing education programs. Northwestern's Master of Science degrees in Information Systems and in Predictive Analytics will both include a new "Analytics and Business Intelligence" track. And Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is combining forces with IBM to offer a new graduate program in fall 2013 to prepare students for big data and analytics careers, IBM said.

Regarding the $10,000 faculty awards, among the standouts are Nitesh Chawla, associate professor at the University of Notre Dame, who developed a novel data science program that requires immersion of an individual in a domain to innovate by conducting data exploration, feature engineering, machine learning, information system design and database design, and what-if analysis.

Jeffrey Popyack, an associate professor at Drexel University, won an award for his effort to introduce frameworks such as Amazon S3, InfoSphere BigInsights, Hadoop and MapReduce into the Computer Architecture and Artificial Intelligence tracks of the university's Computer Science curriculum, with an emphasis on parallelism, scalability, big data and machine learning.

Alexander Rasin, an assistant professor at DePaul University, won an award for his efforts to provide graduate students with practical data mining skills. Rasin will develop a graduate data mining course based on Apache Hadoop and Mahout that leverages IBM BigInsights and IBM SmartCloud.

The IBM Faculty Awards support basic research, curriculum innovation and educational assistance in focus areas that are fundamental to innovation in the 21st century and strategic to IBM's core business. The focus areas of particular interest include smarter planets and cities, health care and personalized education, mobile first and social technologies, big data and business analytics, cyber-security and cloud computing, and multi-core and hybrid systems, IBM said.


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