This is how Airbnb is tackling the data science skills gap

The tech industry en masse is suffering from a talent gap, but there are a few pockets in particular that are suffering more than others.

It’s no surprise that, in light of the massive surge in malware and cyberattacks, that cybersecurity is suffering from a massive skills gap.

However, another industry in desperate need of more talent is data science.

As one of the hottest sectors in tech right now, countless organisations are crying out for data scientists at the moment, and while educational institutes are starting to catch up, the supply simply won’t come fast enough.

This has led to industry taking matters into their own hands. Online accommodation company Airbnb has been running its own Data University in a bid to address its own data skill needs.

While there is a huge number of data science courses both in institutions and online, AirBnB started their own programme because general courses were simply not tailored to the company’s individual needs.

Data University was introduced in Q4 of 2016 and Tim Rathschmidt of Airbnb told that 630 employees have participated in the programme, with each employee taking an average of four or five classes.

“Data University is already being well received across the company,” he said. “Our vision is to empower every employee to make data informed decisions.”

The company’s plan is to roll the programme out to all 22 of its global offices by offering distance learning options. However, classes are currently being offered in certain offices around the world already, including Beijing, Singapore and Dublin.

“Data is essential to us at Airbnb,” said Rathschmidt. “Through Data University, we’re creating a network of recognised data experts who will become the front line for answering data-related questions on their teams.”

And it seems the results are already showing. Rathschmidt said the percentage of employees who are weekly active users of Airbnb’s data tools rose from 30pc to 45pc since this time last year.

He said this is “due to a combination of Data University, data tool improvements and data evangelism.”

With the continuing need for data science professionals in both tech and non-tech firms, it seems Airbnb’s approach to upskilling their own staff in-house, could be an effective way for other companies to narrow their own data science skills shortage.

Airbnb image: Have a nice day Photo/Shutterstock

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