Data Market Observations September 2023

The UK Data Talent Ecosystem at the end of Q3: Key Trends Shaping the year ahead

Following on from last month’s observations about the supply-demand imbalance, the landscape of data talent in the UK continues to traverse a seismic shift. As data analytics becomes the backbone of various sectors, the demand for qualified professionals is skyrocketing, leaving a gap in supply. Both employers and job seekers must stay abreast of the latest market trends to remain competitive.

Informed by our continuous dialogue with top-tier employers and academic institutions nationwide, several pivotal trends have crystallised:

1. The Quest for Versatile Talent: Employers are on a hunt for individuals who can marry technical prowess in data science with business savvy. This elusive blend of skills is in high demand but remains scarce. Teams that possess both specialised and generalist skills are considered invaluable assets.

Need an example? London-based AI company DeepMind, a subsidiary of Alphabet, places a high value on professionals who can bridge the gap between data science and business strategy.

2. Ethical Data Skills Take Centre Stage: As issues around data privacy, transparency and bias gain prominence, there is a surging demand for professionals skilled in ethical AI, synthetic data and responsible data practices. 

Take a look at Ocado Technology to see this in action. This tech arm of the online supermarket Ocado is pioneering in ethical AI and data practices, making it a sought-after employer for data professionals with a focus on ethics.

3. Cloud Data Expertise in High Demand: The migration of data to cloud platforms like AWS, Azure and GCP is a top priority for businesses. Consequently, data engineers and architects with hands-on experience in these platforms are highly sought after.

Online fashion retailer, ASOS, has been at the forefront of migrating data to cloud platforms, particularly Azure, to enhance customer experience and operational efficiency but many others have followed suit in the sprint to the cloud.

4. The Importance of Effective Communication: Skills in data presentation, visualisation and storytelling are becoming increasingly vital. The ability to articulate data-driven insights persuasively is now a key competency.

Banking giant Barclays has been investing in data visualisation tools and training its staff to communicate complex financial data to stakeholders effectively but we’re hearing of many others following a similar arc to ensure they stay ahead in data.

5. Machine Learning as a Necessity: Practical skills in AI and machine learning, such as building, deploying and monitoring ML models, have become indispensable in the data field.

Want a good example here?  Specialising in telehealth services, Babylon Health utilises machine learning algorithms to improve patient diagnosis and treatment.

6. Automation on the Rise: The adoption of automated machine learning and data management tools is accelerating. Professionals who can integrate these cutting-edge tools into their workflow have a distinct advantage.

This is a common theme but companies like AstraZeneca are leveraging automated data analytics tools to accelerate drug discovery and development processes.

7. Universal Data Literacy: A basic grasp of data skills is becoming a prerequisite for almost every job role. A foundational understanding of analytics, statistical concepts and tools like Excel is now essential for the modern workforce.

One of our best recent examples here is with Unilever.  With operations in the UK, Unilever has initiated programs to improve data literacy across all levels of the organisation, not just among data specialists.

To address the burgeoning demand, educational institutions are offering specialised courses, micro-credentials and lifelong learning opportunities. Universities like Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh are both offering some interesting courses to help here.  Government investment in data science training and apprenticeships is also significant. The fluid movement of talent between tech-centric and traditional industries is further enriching the talent pool. 

Despite these efforts, the challenge of filling data talent gaps remains. Companies that focus on upskilling, competitive remuneration, flexible working conditions and robust onboarding processes are best positioned to assemble high-performing analytics teams in a fiercely competitive market.

For aspiring data professionals, the emphasis is on developing a multifaceted skill set and demonstrating a balance between technical expertise and business impact. By actively cultivating these hybrid capabilities and effectively communicating their full-stack skills, they can capitalise on the myriad opportunities that today's market offers.


Author Bio


Michael started MBN to deal with what he perceived as a weakness within the recruitment industry and its lack of deep domain expertise in the areas of data, analytics and technology. 15 years on, MBN is a hugely successful and market leading provider of People Solutions to disruptive and fast moving businesses seeking the very best talent to support their strategic intent. MBN’s success has come about through leadership and passion to collaborate and build communities of stakeholders. In recent years this has been evidenced through organising and facilitating two of the UK’s most compelling networking groups: Scotland Data Science & Technology and Blockchain Scotland Meet-Up Group. With such groups playing a pivotal role in helping to surface unmet clients’ needs and helping to build links with an enhanced candidate pool, he has also used this as a platform for growth by hosting events such as ScotChain, CityChain and Data Talent 2.0. Outside of MBN, he continues to act as an advisor and mentor to a number of start-ups, charities and third-sector organisations and have provided support to many government agencies seeking to understand the evolving complex landscape of Data Talent Acquisition.