Rocketing demand for data science skills by students and firms

Scotland is flourishing in the field of data science, according to experts, with a specialist course seeing intake rocket amid increasing cross-sector demand.

Picture: Getty
Picture: Getty

The Data Lab MSc, a tie-up between The Data Lab and 11 Scottish universities, is open for applications for 2018-19 and will see 155 students funded for their course, representing a 400 per cent increase from its first cohort funded three years previously.

It comes as data science is expected to contribute £20 billion to Scotland’s economy by 2020 and the increase in Data Lab MSc places for the forthcoming academic year is said to be due in part to higher demand for data science and engineering skills across various sectors in Scotland.

Students from the most recent academic year’s cohort – with the total seeing a 50 per cent year-on-year jump – are now doing paid three-month work placements secured as part of the course with organisations including the Scottish Government, Wood Mackenzie, V-Ships UK, Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Life and Merkle Aquila.

New courses added this year include two at Heriot-Watt University and an MSc in ­fintech at Stirling and Strathclyde universities.

Joshua Ryan-Saha, skills lead at The Data Lab, said it is an “exciting time” to learn and work in data science in Scotland.

He said: “The continued increase in the number of funded students and university courses for the upcoming year is proof of that. Data science is booming and companies are desperately looking for smart data scientists.

“The Data Lab MSc programme enables students to develop their technical skills, form a network with their peers and match their ability with Scottish organisation to drive growth of the Scottish economy.”

Robin Huggins, director of academy and client services at MBN Solutions, which matches Data Lab MSc students with work placements across Scotland, said: “MBN is delighted to have delivered the placement programme for The Data Lab’s MSc for the second year running. The rise in the number of students and companies involved is testament to the success of this unique, innovative collaboration.”

As part of the Data Lab MSc, which is funded by the Scottish Funding Council and the European Social Fund, students unite for The Data Lab Innovation Challenge. It involves working on real data problems shared by the likes of Heineken, ScotRail and Tesco, with a view to benefiting Scotland.