IBM is hoping to help create the next generation of Big Data specialists through a series of partnerships with universities around the world, as well as influence the curriculum.
Nine new agreements announced yesterday involve Georgetown University, George Washington University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of Missouri and Northwestern University in the US. IBM is also beginning Big Data programmes at Dublin City University, Mother Teresa Women's University in India, the National University of Singapore, and the Philippines' Commission on Higher Education.
They will result in a variety of programmes, including a master of science degree in the business analytics track at George Washington University; an undergraduate course titled "Big Data Analytics" at the University of Missouri; and a centre for business analytics at the National University of Singapore.
Big Data refers to the massive amounts of structured and unstructured data being continuously generated by websites, social media, sensors, smart devices and other sources. A wide range of software, hardware and consulting companies have been bringing products and services to market that they say customers can use to derive valuable business insights from such information.
Participants in the academic programmes will get access to a "wide spectrum of IBM Big Data and analytics software solutions," as well as case studies, guest lecture appearances by IBM "thought leaders" and case study projects, according to an IBM spokesman. Some 1,000 schools are now involved with IBM regarding Big Data, the company said.
Such programmes have clear benefits for both sides, with potentially cash-strapped schools getting access to technology and other resources, while IBM helps seed the market for future Big Data consultants, data scientists and developers that know its technology.
In its announcement, IBM cited US Bureau of Labor statistics that found there will be a 24% rise in demand for people with "data analytics skills" over the next eight years.
Big Data is also the fastest-growing job category on US tech jobs board Dice.com. There are some 1,500 job listings in the area on the site daily, a 127% rise compared to a year ago.
Employers are looking most often for people skilled in Hadoop, the programming framework for large-scale data processing, said Scot Melland, CEO of site owner Dice Holdings.
Big Data is still a "relatively small category" among Dice.com's 84,000 job listings, Melland said. However, it's telling that other major categories have remained largely flat year-over-year. For example, ads for Java programmers rose just 2% in contrast to Big Data's triple-digit rise, he said.
While companies are managing to fill Big Data positions, there's a caveat. "They are finding the candidates but a lot of what they're doing is poaching candidates from other companies," Melland said. "One of the reasons I would expect IBM is making these partnerships to make sure there's enough engineers to meet the demand they're seeing."
IBM has also announced the winners of an awards programme aimed at university professors. Fourteen were awarded $10,000 for their work developing curricula "designed to develop the business and technical skills required for data-crunching jobs."