Big data, early talent and the future of work

Computer code and graphsBig data can change decision making and how businesses operate. When used efficiently, it can revolutionize the future of work.

Between 2019 and 2025 as organizations conduct more business online and increasingly use social networks and mobile devices, the amount of data collected will triple. Using data involves analytical techniques like machine learning, data mining, natural language processing and statistics. With more data collected, talent with these mathematical skills is more important than ever.

Why is big data important?

Big data refers to the large volume of data, extracted from digital tools that we use daily, that is too complex for traditional data processing software. What’s important is not the volume of data, but what organizations do with it. Through data, organizations create new growth opportunities and amplify products, services and consumer preferences. 

Today, 97.2 per cent of organizations are investing in data and artificial intelligence (AI). This equates to investing in talent with the skills to handle data.

Top data skills

According to a 2020 Deloitte report, tech jobs looking for analytical skills such as machine learning, data science, data engineering and visualization have increased. The need for these skills has surpassed more traditional skill categories like engineering, customer support, marketing, PR and administration.

The University of Waterloo’s Work-Learn Institute (WxL) research found similar results with more organizations listing data analysis skills as a top tech requirement. Similar related skills include Excel, VBA and SQL. A 2018 study notes that entry-level positions need at least three years of experience in technical skills and data fluency. Co-op students graduate with up to two years of full-time work experience.

Early data talent is the future of work

Co-op student working on a coding project onlineHome to North America’s largest co-operative and experiential learning program, Waterloo analyzed over 48,000 jobs filled by Math and Engineering students. Some of the top roles that employers are looking for are data-driven, including the following:

  1. Data Scientist
  2. Machine Learning Developer
  3. Data Analyst
  4. AI Engineer
  5. Machine Learning Researcher
  6. Business Analyst
  7. Data Entry Associate

By 2028 there will be an expected 18,000 new jobs for data analysts and administrators. Only 16,700 new job seekers (arising from graduates, immigration and mobility) are available to fill these positions. These jobs will be on the rise in both tech and non-traditional tech industries as everyone needs data.

The competition for data talent will only continue to rise and early talent can fill the gap. Waterloo’s research shows that Gen Z students are motivated by opportunities to problem solve making them a good fit for data-related positions.

Attracting early talent

Today’s workforce spans five generations, each with unique characteristics and expectations. The global pandemic has accelerated the focus on early talent. WxL identifies the following key strategies when it comes to recruiting and engaging this talent: 

  • Recruit a diverse workforce: Assess barriers and consider the long-term benefits of equity and diversity. A diverse workforce results in the ability to change, be innovative and meet or exceed financial targets.
  • Improve job postings: Increase your applicant pool by including these key themes: 1) company culture, 2) programming languages, 3) food and games, 4) company values, 5) compensation, and 6) opportunities for career development. For more tips, check out our latest article on writing the perfect job description.
  • Strengthen remote recruitment strategies: A study from ADP Canada shows that early tech talent wants remote work - 61 per cent of workers aged 18 to 34 want to work remotely at least three days a week. 
  • Be open: Describe your culture, values and work during recruitment and reimagine your ideal candidate as the world continues to change.

As data continues to grow, so will its impact on the future of work. Get ahead of these hiring trends to ensure your organization is on the road to success.

 1) company culture, 2) programming language, 3) food and games, 4) employer values, 5) compensation, and 6) opportunities for career development.

Get our resource package for attracting early talent!

Our resource package includes:

  • Future Workforce Management Guide
  • Job description tips and template
  • Webinars and research publications
* indicates required
Which of the following describes you the best? *

I want to hire a co-op student (intern) right away

I plan to hire a co-op student (intern)

I’m looking for some general info about hiring a co-op student (intern)

My organization already hires co-op students (interns)

Do you provide us consent to send you information?

The University of Waterloo will use the information you provide on this form to email you details, news, reminders and updates about co-operative education. To stop receiving marketing messages from us, click the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email or contact us at View our Privacy Policy for additional information.

I consent.