Data science jobs galore due to poor college curricula, say employers

Lakhs of jobs in the field remain vacant as institutes do not foster functional thinking about data among students, experts tell The Electronics.

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The pandemic, which led to high unemployment rates, did not seem to have an effect on jobs in the data science sector. There were around 93,500 data science job vacancies in India at the end of August 2020, according to a report by Great Learning, an ed-tech platform for professional courses. 

But the catch is that while job vacancies in the sector have been consistently high, lakhs of openings remain unfulfilled every year in a country where only 3% of the engineering graduates bag high-quality and high-paying jobs as freshers. The Electronics spoke to industry experts and freshers to understand the factors at play.

“Two things account for the disconnect between job vacancies and the number of skilled people in the market. One is that some are not proficient with the different tools and techniques available to bag a good job. The second is lack of awareness in students who are not sure which application domain suits them,” said VS Yerragudi, founder and director, Socimy Technologies and Founder of Dreamers and Supporters (DnS), a platform to mentor students.

“In universities, conceptual knowledge is heavy, but the application of those concepts is less. This creates a massive gap between a student’s skills and industrial requirements,” added Yerragudi.

This could be the reason why there is a growing demand for mid-to-senior level professionals in 2020. “Engineering graduates have not been taught basics and fundamentals of data analysis, which are rooted in maths and statistics. Some colleges do offer electives like operational research but even then, the curriculum is outdated and does not foster functional thinking about data. Colleges need to revamp their courses with more subjects/electives focused on what is relevant in the industry today,” said Amlan Chakravarty, a data science professional who has been working on analytics for nine years.

Experience makes for an important factor in landing a job. “The primary challenge was that most of the companies I approached asked for my experience in the field,” said Subhin Antony, a fresher who was recently hired as a data scientist.

“I think it is the domain knowledge that matters. If a fresher has a good command over this, along with the appropriate data science skill sets, they will have a competitive advantage over others,” added Antony.

When asked about the future of data science, Chakravarty said it’s a U-shaped curve. “Due to the pandemic, a lot of businesses are going back to the drawing board to analyse priorities. This has led to a reality check in terms of what data science can help achieve (which was riding an AI hype for the past few years),” he told The Electronics

“But once the reality is understood, there is no denying that we capture data in multiple ways from smartwatches to smartphones. Hence, the industry’s need of being able to work with data and gain insight from it will not go away anytime soon,” he ended.

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