Singapore and Malaysia gear up for the future: Training and producing data professionals
Data is everywhere -- in everyday devices like computers and mobile phones; and even in the sensors that activate streetlights in the evening. Currently, large amount of data is being collected and analysed by both businesses and government organisations on a daily basis. But the big question is: How will the understanding and interpreting of these data lead to better business decision making (for businesses) or better improve the lives of citizens (for governments)?
The reality is that there is an urgent need, globally, for data professionals both in the private and public sector. There is a need for skilled workers who are able to make sense of these data – data professionals who can make sense of the data and actualise it. While there are buzzwords like “big data” and “big data analytics”, what do they really mean? How do individuals and organisations go about embarking on a journey to grapple with and eventually make sense of data?
To address this dire need for data professionals, Cloudera has recently introduced the BASE (Big Analytics Skills Enablement) initiative in April 2016 across Singapore and Malaysia. The BASE involves an ecosystem of educational institutions, training partners, government organisations, and the technology community at large working together to train, nurture and eventually produce a new generation of data professionals who can add value to the future economy.
We spoke to Daniel Ng, Senior Director of APAC at Cloudera, whose brainchild BASE is, to better understand BASE. He shared that there are seven pillars to the BASE initiative:
1) Education & training
Training and equipping future data professionals begins in schools and educational institutions. It is no easy task for teaching staff to develop a curriculum from scratch, even more so in the field of data analytics which is relatively new and constantly evolving.
To address this, Cloudera offers accredited, non-profit educational institutions a complete, industry-standard Hadoop curriculum at no charge through the Cloudera Academic Partnership (CAP).
Ng said: “Schools in Singapore that have signed up with the CAP program include National University of Singapore, Temasek Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE). In Malaysia, we have the Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, Multimedia University and Sunway University. These schools can choose to teach the curriculum as it is or combine it with existing curriculum or modules such as business analytics and computer science. We do not dictate what these schools should do with the curriculum and this way they have the flexibility to assimilate the material into existing programs.”
2) Professional internships
“How can the students put into practice what they have learnt in school?” Ng continued. “One way is to make sure they get to take on internship roles in companies that practice big data analytics.”
The advantages are twofold: Participating companies get to work with the best interns from CAP and the interns get on-the-job experience. If the interns do really well during their internships, they may even get an early letter of offer of employment before they graduate from school.
3) Executive search firms
The key is to place these trained data professionals (or graduating students) and fill positions within the public and private sectors. This is where the executive search firms come in the BASE program. Graduating students can submit their resumes to the search firms, and these search firms can help place them with organisations in need of people with these skill sets.
4) Training partners
Students and graduates who wish to take it further in the career of data science can do so with Cloudera’s training partners. Training partners in BASE provide professional training courses and charge a fee for it. However, Ng remarked: “Cloudera’s certification program is one of the toughest in the world with less than 40 percent passing rate but once you are certified, you are recognised as a data scientist.”
5) Community movement
The existing professional community, through various certification programs and training, can add more value to their organisations with their added knowledge of data analytic skills and data science. Cloudera’s training partners also play a role in these certification programs and expand the data professionals’ community to enable more learning and sharing of knowledge, especially with both schools and government institutions/agencies. Additionally, private sector companies like Ambition, Dell, Intel, IDC, Itel, Iverson, Red Hat, Microsoft, OpenGov Asia, Talend, SAS Malaysia, SoftSource and Fusionex have agreed to join the initiative.
6) Government support
BASE was launched in collaboration with the Smart Nation Programme Office (SNPO) in Singapore, and the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) in Malaysia.
The Ministry of Communication and Information (MCI) in Singapore recently also announced that it is setting aside S$120 million to support both current and future infocomm professionals, which include high demand areas such as data analytics. Similarly, MDEC in Malaysia has said that it aims to produce 16,000 data professionals and 1,500 data scientists by 2020.
BASE works in tandem with these governmental initiatives to train more data professionals. Ng added: “It is crucial that we have the support of the governments. We are glad to see that BASE gets to play a role in the grand scheme of things and serves to help cultivate more data professionals for industries and the community.”
7) End user organsations
Ng summarised: “Most importantly, it is really about the end user of big data analytic skills and technology. By end user, I mean organisations who have a need for data professionals. For example, it can be a start-up business focusing on building a smartphone app; such as one that uses big data collected from wearable devices, used to monitor and ensure the safety and well-being of elderly people who are staying alone. Ultimately, it allows the user or related parties to make an informed decision.”
The beauty of BASE is not these seven pillars individually, but how they all come together to fulfil a bigger dream of serving the needs of the industries, the communities and the people.