It’s conventional wisdom that educating people to have advanced skills is vital for improving economic competitiveness, but Bridget van Kralingen, the general manager for IBM North America, goes one step further: “I’d argue that if you create skills, you create jobs. Skills create jobs,” she said during a recent conference on U.S. competitiveness at Roosevelt House in New York City, which we live-blogged here and Tweeted at #uscompetes.
I’d add that if you create a large pool of people with analytics skills, you’re going to create a lot of high-value jobs. That’s one of the reasons that IBM is helping more than 200 universities worldwide develop programs and curricula aimed at preparing business, computer science and engineering students for careers in analytics. In the forefront of the movement is Northwestern University, which has introduced two new masters degree programs in analytics—one for traditional graduate students and another for adult professionals who are acquiring new skills.
How do skills create jobs? Think of it this way: People who have advanced scientific and technical skills will see the world through the prism of those possibilities and will create companies based on their visions. This is one of the bases for the success of Silicon Valley, where Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley helped build the intellectual foundation for one of the world’s premier economic development success stories. Also, smart business people will establish businesses where the proper conditions exist for their success–and having the right talent pool is essential. So skilling up people will be a catalyst for innovation, new business ideas and, therefore, job creation.
Now consider analytics. It will clearly be one of most important skill sets in the coming decades. A global technology industry is being built around these new capabilities. But these skills will be vital for more than IT and business consulting firms. Every person at nearly every level in a knowledge-based company will do their work better with the help of analytics. So, it’s clear that if a community creates and attracts a large talent pool of people with analytics skills, it will receive a strong return on its investments.
In this time of fiscal austerity, it’s difficult for governments to find the money to adequately invest in public education. But those with ambition and foresight will find ways to do so. And they’ll be rewarded for it with job growth, a dynamic economy and rewarding careers for their young people.
Weigh in on analytics and the future of competitiveness in comments here and at #us competes.