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It’s no secret that employers are looking for data scientists. They have become the stars of the modern workforce – the most valuable employees.

Companies of all sizes have awoke to the fact that data science, by mining new insights from even decades of accumulated data sets, has the potential to drive efficiencies and increase productivity in ways never previously imagined. Simply put, it has the potential to transform businesses. From Zillow’s home price predictions to Amazon’s recommendation engines, applications of data science have become increasingly accurate, prevalent, and impactful on our everyday lives.

But while “data scientist” has been ranked the “No. 1 Job in America” for three years running now, according to careers website Glassdoor, there’s still a shortage of talent to fill the huge need of employers across every industry. In fact, according to a recent LinkedIn study, businesses across the nation need 151,717 more data scientists right now.

The need is nothing short of stunning.

This is why companies understand that they must increasingly invest in the education of their employees in order to compete in an ever-changing world. At the same time, employees need to recognize that traditional higher education just isn’t designed or equipped  to keep up with the breathtaking pace of technological developments and digital transformation that we see in business every single day. People may intuitively know that learning is a lifelong process. But the modern employees also needs to accept that that continually adding to their skill set is the best way they stay competitive in the job market.

Here’s the reality: Jobs are available. But organizations expect potential employees (and current ones) to have the skills to those critical jobs.

The advantage of this digital transformation is that it’s also changing how we think about education. And it truly can be the answer to solving the data scientist shortage within your company.

This ongoing process of learning can take place digitally and independently of location. E-learning can happen anywhere, anytime: at the workplace, at home, on the train, or in the coffee shop. The subject matter can even be adapted to the precise, tailored requirements of a company. This way, it has maximum added value for employees and employers. For example, last year the automobile company Audi launched its employee “data-camp” training focused on big data and artificial intelligence.

Even companies that specialize in data analysis have recognized their own crying need to create alternatives to the traditional training pathways. After all, they are on the front lines of the digital transformation, and their workers need to have cutting-edge skills.

For example, our customer Alteryx, which develops self-service data analysis software, offers a nanodegree that enables regular employees to become data specialists and to expand their own career opportunities. In this way, companies meet the need for data specialists, while employees sharpen their skill sets, receive additional qualifications and ultimately improve their career opportunities.

It becomes a win-win. Organizations benefit the improved effort of employees. The workers themselves expand their horizons.

Employees who have a background in computer science or mathematics – and interact with numbers, data and programming daily – are ideal candidates in terms of becoming data experts in the company. Udacity’s online course, with concrete sample projects and application examples, is usually enough to give employees the added education they need to take that next step within their own company.

But employees outside of traditional IT departments have opportunities to pursue what is known in the industry as  “Citizen Data Scientists.”The term describes employees who evaluate data but do not program the algorithms themselves. Instead, they use self-service tools. These tools enable the analysis and visualization of large amounts of data with preconfigured workflows. The advantage here is that employees usually know more about the context of the data and can bring that understanding directly into their own departments.

Data isn’t the future. It’s now. And it’s critical to every company in every industry.

Companies are looking everywhere for data scientists. They can be academically trained, educating through  internal further education programs, or this relatively new world of Citizen Data Scientists, It’s clear that businesses need all of them because we live in  a world where data is collected everywhere. It’s clear that companies need to invest in employee training to keep pace with digital transformation.

Faced with this dire shortage of talent, business leaders who want to make the most of data science can’t rely on half-measures and casual hiring processes. What they need is a strategic roadmap toward building data science skills internally and effectively upskilling their talented employees.

Stay tuned for new releases from Udacity Enterprise.