by NJABULO BUTHELEZI
DURBAN – A PARTNERSHIP between a global software company and South African universities is anticipated to address the rising demand for data scientists.
SAS, the international firm, is partnering the tertiary institutions to strengthen the output of graduates with the required training to fill this skills gap.
The goal of the programme, known as Viya for Learners (VFL), is to enable students to graduate with a level of practical knowledge that makes them employer-ready after graduation.
Faculty members at the University of KwaZulu Natal’s (UKZN’s) School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science are forging ahead with the new generation of data scientists using the VFL platform as part of the School’s curriculum for 2020.
Second-year students at the UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science are engaged in a new Data Science course teaching them the skills of data mining using machine learning.
The students are gaining hands-on experience in data mining using the SAS VFL programme, which is another first for South African University programmes.
The course focuses on different types of data classification, clustering and association analysis, showing the students how to interpret the output and compare models, based on the output that SAS VFL provides.
School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science at UKZN is in the process of setting up a SAS Centre for Data Science for Business, which will offer training and qualifications in Data Science, from undergraduate level through to postgraduate level.
Prof. Delia North, Dean of the School, said the partnership with SAS and the VFL platform offered an opportunity for the University to produce world-class graduates likely to be snapped up by employers.
“If we don’t work with the most modern programmes, our graduates will not be work-ready,” the professor pointed out.
“The world of work is changing at an incredible speed, and through our relationships with industry, such as our partnership with SAS, we’re confident that our graduates will be sought-after,” North added.
According to lecturers, the hands-on approach has paid dividends with access to VFL giving students insight into new methods and advances in the field of data science.
Danielle Roberts, UKZN course lecturer, said with the hands-on experience, students were able to reason and interpret what they were observing instead of just repeating class notes.
“Data science is a job of the future and VFL is the best interface to work with to help our students develop those skills,” she commented.
Prof. Temesgen Zewotir, a research professor in Applied Statistics and Data Science, agreed.
“We know that data science is the future, and using SAS VFL, we have full confidence that we can achieve many things,” Zewotir said.
Industry experts believe data scientists entering the job market are more in demand than ever.
The 2020 State of Enterprise Machine Learning report by Algorithmia likened the need for data science to a “modern-day gold rush.”
– CAJ News