I quoted about organ donors from the Data Strategy editorial only a few days ago, but the cover story from this month's issue has an equally relevant message: Clients, suppliers and agencies are crying out for data analysts and database managers, but the small number of recruits available is a growing problem for employers.
There is a very obvious first cause for this. Again quoting directly from the printed article: the number of students taking A Level Maths fell by nearly 40 per cent between 1989 and 2002. This was against a backdrop of a 15 per cent overall rise in the number of A Levels being taken.
As a fairly new and emerging industry, the employment market for these people should be fairly flexible. There is an obvious requirement for these skills, in fact the writing here always seems to return to the same theme of the need for better targeting, better measurement, and also the the growing requirement for increased statistical analysis as a compensating factor for increased data protection.
But these same skills are also in demand in the slightly stratospheric world of financial risk analysis and hedge fund management. Understandably, many maths graduates are drawn to the City to manipulate and model with numbers that are even further removed from the real world of people and commodities. It could be argued that there is a case for outsourcing of this analysis, but that is easier said than done, and at least in the marketing arena there is huge added value in knowing the local market as well as the local model. This again suggests that more skilled graduates are needed here.
So there should be a natural tendency for prices (salaries and contract rates) to rise to match the increased demand. If this does not happen, then it is hard to see how employers can complain about insufficient supply. And over time we should even see a regression of graduates back to the more "difficult" subjects.
There are alternatives. Perhaps the government will submit to industry demands for more professional immigration. Perhaps more jobs will be outsourced despite their practical difficulties. Or perhaps we will learn to value scientific skills before we become a nation of hairdressers, TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, management consultants, telephone sanitizers and tired bloggers.