The Great Resignation and the Opportunity for Data-Based Programs

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July 6, 2021

If you have been following the news lately, you may have seen several articles about the American workforce and a trend that has been coined, “The Great Resignation.” Employees are leaving their old jobs for better ones (more than 4 million US workers quit in April), often with a pit stop for skills training. As a country, we are taking stock and retooling, and that includes the state of our skills and careers. Financial giant Prudential has been reporting regularly on survey results regarding worker expectations and the coming talent migration. But in a sense, this is an old prediction now coming to fruition. Back in October, the World Economic Forum published The Future of Jobs Report showing some interesting transitions – such as movement from hospitality to healthcare analytics and higher ed to software development. From these reports and others, and from our GrayData, we can see more interest and demand for training in skills that fall under the category of data science.

A Shift to Data

Going back to Prudential and its current obsession with work place migration surveys, “53% say they’d switch to an entirely new industry if they could retrain.” Add in productivity and satisfaction statistics that make working from home (at least part of the time) appealing to both employers and employees, and the logic of a gravitation toward data science skills retooling makes sense.

Many may take advantage of massive labor shortages for data skills positions, such as the one happening right now in cybersecurity, but what about the section of the workforce who find themselves instead wanting to level up and increase their employment options?

In either case, whether career shift or career enhancement, those responsible for program portfolio management should take notice. For brevity, we’ll dive into just two areas related to Data Science: Social Media Management and Analytical Skills.

Social Media Management Skills and Job Title Application

Social media management is an obvious choice for many who wish to retool their careers and learn new, in-demand skills. Traditionally, job titles with “social media” requirements fell into two camps: in-house marketing departments and outsourced marketing agencies or consultancies. But with new industries, from automotive dealerships to boutiques including a social media component for new job titles, employees qualified in these skills have multiple options, from a full-time career shift to the retooling of an existing position.

This trend is clean when looking at Gray’s PES+ Markets Resume Dashboard. The chart below shows a section of all the job titles that include social media skills*.

Resume count by metric for social media

Leveling Up: Graphic designers are in the number one spot. The most likely scenario here is a concentrated need for graphic designers who can work on a digital platform, creating graphical content that reads well and is successful on social media channels. But successful social media managers and contributors need to be skilled in both social media and marketing analytics. Courses that concentrate on these skills may be a good addition to graphic design programs. Other job titles leveling up may include freelance writer, photographer, videographer and other areas that are traditionally focused on the creative arts. An administrative assistant may need to also fill this role of managing social media for the employer.

Career Shift: In the second spot is Sales Associate. This could likely be a career shift toward a full or part time social media manager role. Other jobs titles that fall into this group include Team Member, Cashier, Server and Delivery Driver.

In both cases, we can see feasibility for certificate programs as well as two- and four-year degrees.

Analytical Skills and Workforce Flexibility

What do a project manager and a staff nurse have in common? They, along with more than 100 other job titles have Analysis or Data Analytics listed as one of the top five skills or certifications desired for those positions. As employers’ demand for analytical skills increases, programs may need to encompass more analytical skills and offer a menu of options, from degree-required data analytics to basic level courses that teach the general concepts and practices behind successful analysis.

Those in possession of analytical skills, or even better a degree or certification, can quickly glide across companies and sectors.

scatter plot for analytic skills on resumes

Pair this insight with the shift to remote work, both in employee preference and employer epiphany of increased productivity and other positive outcomes. USA recently reported that a mere 25% of workers want to return to the office full time, compared to 40% who prefer to work from home full time, and 35% wanting a hybrid schedule.   With few exceptions, analysis work can be done anywhere there is a good computer and a decent internet connection. Try this as a physical therapist or a concierge and you are left with the perfect Saturday Night Live skit, but an impractical reality.

Leveling Up: In a pre-Covid-19 article that identified the need for professionals skilled in data analytics, Northwestern University quotes, “Analytics professionals are like a Swiss army knife…These skills and roles set you apart from IT because they give you the fluidity to bounce between departments, making you more marketable and valuable.”  

Career Shift: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports “much faster than average” job market growth with median pay for 2020:

Data Scientist: 31% growth and $98,200
Information Security Analysts: 31% growth and $103,600
Management Analysts: 11% growth and $87,700
Operations Research Analysts: 25% growth and $86,000

As with social media skills, we can see in-demand feasibility for certificate programs as well as two- and four-year degrees in analytics.

The Great Resignation Offers Opportunity for Higher Ed

While media outlets, staffing firms, job sites and government agencies report on the phenomena of the Great Resignation and the reasons behind it, program planners should take a careful look at their academic offerings and how they align with their markets, particularly in terms of the critical metric of student demand. When looking at your program portfolio management, it may make sense to open data science courses to additional programs or use them to create online certificate programs.

*Based on resume data of self-declared skills.

Gray Associates

Gray Associates, Inc. provides the best available data, software, and facilitated processes to help higher education institutions make high-stakes decisions regarding academic programs, pricing, and locations.

About Gray DI

Gray DI provides data, software and facilitated processes that power higher-education decisions. Our data and AI insights inform program choices, optimize finances, and fuel growth in a challenging market – one data-informed decision at a time.

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