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James Mitchell

Information is everywhere. So, it follows that the collection and study of data and information has become one of the biggest growth areas in almost every part of the business world.

“The amount of data being collected is mind-boggling,” said Toni Somers, management and information systems department chair at Wayne State University. “This isn’t just a phase; it’s kind of a revolution. There are plumb, big-data jobs out there going unfilled today.”

A recent analysis of the job market by the Workforce Intelligence Network reported a dramatic two-year increase of positions requiring data management, analysis and mining in southeast Michigan, from just over 4,000 in 2013 to more than 6,300 anticipated for 2015. Among the most active career fields were business intelligence analysis, database administrators and computer systems analysis, and more than 200 companies looking to hire.

The university isn’t new to the data mining bandwagon. Somers said that a second annual symposium in March presented two days’ worth of tutorials on the latest data management systems. For several years WSU has offered a variety of analytics courses, and a master’s program is being considered with a dual emphasis on data analytics and business. The need, Somers said, will only increase as more and more information is collected across all fields and enterprises.

“Everyone from government to health care to retail understands the need to target customers, improve business processes and optimize manufacturing,” Somers said. “Reports are coming out that jobs are unfilled, and the demand will exceed supply for another five years.”

Leslie Monplasir, chair of WSU’s Industrial and Systems Engineering department and one of a 30-member faculty team behind the Big Data & Business Analytics Symposium, said the field seems limitless. Wayne State began collaborating on business data projects for health care providers and the auto industry about five years ago, and the current challenge for educators and training managers is to identify the specific abilities that are – and will be – needed.

“We keep hearing from industry leaders that they need a new set of skills,” Monplasir said. “When you look at the whole spectrum of data analysis, from basic computing up to data mining, the tools are different. The companies and individuals who master the skill sets will really be able to compete.”

Navigating through basic data research has become – similar to fundamental computer literacy had with the internet explosion – a necessary skill across all fields. Marty Orlowski, executive director of curriculum at Oakland Community College, said course offerings have been added to prepare students of most every discipline for the new reality.

“There’s a major increase in business analytics,” Orlowski said. “There’s this enormous wealth of data out there. How do you tie it all together? People are able to use data to predict the future, and the best predictor of the future is the past.”

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