IBM IOD: Watson tackles skills gap

Gartner predicts 4.4 million jobs will be created by 2015 to support Big Data initiatives, and that at least a third of those can’t be filled unless we do something extraordinary to close the skills gap.

So what is IBM Watson going to do about it?

At the IBM IOD roundtable “Watson Heads to the Class – Preparing a New Generation of Thinkers for Next Generation Jobs”, senior Professors and Deans from around the world sat down to discuss this very issue and the role that Watson would play.

It became very clear early on that Watson doesn’t just change the way we do business, it changes every aspect of higher level thinking at University.  And it’s not just the statistical and technology faculties that are taking an interest – machine learning and natural language processing are being discussed in the psychology, business and history classrooms as well.

A recent internship program offered eight very lucky students an opportunity to get hands-on with Watson and brainstorm new applications and industries in which the advanced technology could add value.  Over 1,400 students applied for the honor, showing just how keen students are to learn more about the new wave of thinking.

The panel discussed similar plans on how they were going to help tackle the skills gap – Rajiv Dewan, University of Rochester emphasized the importance of teaching both tools and technologies, coupled with a foundation for analytical thinking. He also outlined plans to bring together statistical and business students to share knowledge and ultimately strengthen the education of both.

One way IBM is providing support is through the IBM SPSS Statistics and Mining in Academics and Research Training (SMART) program.  Projects tackle real-world business challenges such as fraud detection, product and pricing optimization, employee recruitment satisfaction and more, providing essential real-world experience for students before they graduate.

Professor Graeme Baily, Cornell University, suggested the key to closing the current skills gap is for IBM to allow two-way access to IBM researchers and developers.  “Let our students work on your problems” and encourage them to THINK BIG.  A sentiment that has been a hot topic this week.

The more students that come out of the SMART program with real-world experience the better our industry will be.

Panel Members: Steve Gold, IBM Watson Solutions;  Professor Girish Punj, University of Connecticut;
Dr Thomas Fomby, Southern Methodist University;  Rajiv Dewan, University of Rochester;
Matthew Canon, Andrews Distributing Company