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Northwestern University and IBM are collaborating on new business and technology curricula to help students gain the latest skills in business analytics. The new courses of study, Masters of Science degree programs with analytics concentrations in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Continuing Studies, will better prepare students and current professionals who are seeking new analytics skills for today’s competitive job market.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be a 24 percent increase in demand for professionals with management analysis skills over the next eight years. The need for this specialized talent is being fueled by an increased use of business analytics by companies to better understand the explosion of data generated online, via social networks and mobile devices, or through real time sensors. With so much data residing within, and shared across, these digital sources, organizations are seeking new ways to understand, measure, act and even predict outcomes based on customer and social sentiment.
The demand for new higher education programs such as those at Northwestern illustrates the evolution of analytics. Once considered an area of focus for technology majors, that has moved beyond computers science and is now a required competency across businesses from finance and IT to human resources and marketing.
“Business leaders are faced with an enormous, and ever-increasing, amount of complexity,” says Julio M. Ottino, Ph.D., dean of the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University. “It is critical that we prepare the next generation of leaders with the skills to find trends and patterns in this vast amount of data. The field of analytics provides powerful tools to find meaning and opportunity amid complexity. We are committed to preparing students to excel in this emerging field, and we value the support of IBM in our efforts.”
The work between Northwestern and IBM is part of an ongoing effort to expand and strengthen education curricula to meet the growing demand of highly skilled analytics business workers of the future. As part of its Academic Initiative, a program that offers colleges and universities access to the latest advances in technology and business industry expertise, IBM is providing Northwestern with curriculum materials, project-focused case studies for students to gain hands-on experience in analytics, access to a wide spectrum of software solutions, IBM thought leaders as guest speakers, as well as faculty awards to accelerate program development.
“As data of all shapes and sizes swell at record speeds the need will continue to grow for those individuals with an advanced understanding of how to interpret and respond to this information,” says Deepak Advani, vice president of predictive analytics, IBM. “IBM is privileged to work with Northwestern University to help share the latest developments in analytics technologies and processes, and help prepare future business leaders to tackle complex societal challenges that increasingly will be addressed by understanding and responding to data instantly, from health care to retailing experiences to public safety.”
The collaboration extends a long-standing relationship between the two organizations. In addition to the focus on expanding analytics curriculums, Northwestern faculty are also working alongside IBM researchers at the TJ Watson Research Center to explore material science, engineering and computing innovations.