Mentoring New Data Pathways in Community Colleges

As more sectors of the economy come to rely increasingly on data, the demand for skilled data workers is growing at a pace that outstrips the capacity of colleges to develop the programs needed to produce qualified employees. Workforce demand for data skills is disrupting the job market. By 2020, the number of jobs for all US data workers will increase by 364,000 openings to 2,720,000. Annual demand for the new roles of data scientist, data developers, and data engineers will reach nearly 700,000 openings. Data Science and Analytics (DSA) jobs remain open an average of 45 days, five days longer than the market average. Companies report that they cannot find the qualified employees to fill their open data positions. Projections indicate that this gap will continue to grow. Meanwhile, as evidenced in a recent Data Science Summit held by the American Statistical Association, there is a surging awareness among community colleges of employer demands for data workers, a growing interest in developing data programs, and a rapidly growing population of students looking for new career opportunities. What is missing are strategies and supports that can enable colleges to rapidly respond to these opportunities and scale-up their efforts to train the next generation of data workers in a sustained and timely manner.

Mentoring New Data Pathways in Community Colleges, a partnership of EDC’s Oceans of Data Institute, Bunker Hill, Sinclair, and Normandale Community Colleges, will strengthen the capacity of faculty in community colleges to design and launch new data programs. This project will train mentors who have participated as partners in ATE’s previously funded Creating Pathways to Big Data Careers, to share their experiences in developing data programs with faculty from four mentee institutions, and guide mentees as they: 1) conduct an internal self-assessment of their college’s data program development assets; 2) develop and implement a strategic plan to create their new data program; 3) work with employers to prioritize work tasks required for success in local industries; 4) align courses/curriculum to local industry skill demand; 5) establish broad, internal support for the new data program, and 6) develop a new program proposal for their college’s curriculum committee. ODI will maintain a professional learning community to support mentors and mentees throughout this process, linking them to best practices learned from ATE’s successful MentorLinks and Mentor-Connects projects. Mentors will meet monthly to plan, to discuss challenges and to share successes. Mentors and mentees will visit each other’s institutions to engage college faculty and administrative staff in substantive fact-finding and problem solving conversations. Mentors and mentees will meet annually in advance of ATE’s annual HI-TEC conference to engage in professional development, plan and problem solve. Mentoring New Data Pathways will deploy a variety of resources to support mentee intuitions in their pursuit of developing data science programs. These resources will also be made widely available to the public, and outreach and dissemination efforts will target community colleges who would most benefit from this information

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, grant # 1902568. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these materials are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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