Data Analytics Students in Great Demand with Valley Employers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Management, data visualization and predictive modeling are the three tenets of Youngstown State University’s data analytics certification program.

About 1,000 students passed courses on those subjects to become acclimated in this field, says Ou Hu, professor of economics at YSU.

The data analytics program was launched in the fall of 2020. In 2019, there was talk of making this course of study a major or minor. Eventually a compromise was reached on a certificate program for this up-and-coming way of thinking.

“It is a growing trend in the world,” Hu says.

As of May 14, job websites such as Indeed state there are 150 data analytics jobs in the Youngstown area, 650 around Ohio, 180 in the Pittsburgh area with 900 in Pennsylvania, says Feng “George” Yu, associate professor in YSU’s school of computer science, information and engineering technology.

Feng “George” Yu, associate professor, is one of the instructors in YSU’s program. 

“So you can see that that’s a large job pool just specifically for data analytics,” he says. “That’s why we want to offer some courses that can directly benefit the student’s career development.”

G. Jay Kerns, YSU professor in the department of mathematics and statistics, says businesses have the capacity to handle the vast amount of data flowing into their companies. They store the influx of information but they need to interpret that data for people who do not have the technical training.

“We need people in the middle to be able to start from the data and communicate it to other people with presentations, reports, etc.,” Kerns says.

Data visualization is how students learn to translate the computer languages into real-life scenarios.

“It’s important to tell your story with your data,” Hu says. “It’s not just about numbers. This course will train a student in the skills, graphical presentation of information.”

Before that course comes data management, which covers database development and languages such as Python, Sass, Matlab and others.

“We emphasize through this course the real-world application relevant to management of data in the organization environment like the corporation and the businesses,” Hu says.

Finally, predictive modeling covers statistical techniques that can predict outcomes by emphasizing real-world applications.

“We can predict the firm’s future performance, earnings and the stock market returns,” Hu says.

Whether it is criminal justice, economics, business, physics, biology or another field, there are data connections.

“Anywhere you see large amounts of data, you’re going to see this in some ways,” says Joseph Palardy, YSU professor in the Lariccia School of Accounting and Finance. “I view it as a good value added for students.”

Intelligence analysts, quantitative analytic consultants and marketing analysts are a few of the jobs graduates can pursue.

“The marketability will be so much more boosted with the data analytics certificate,” Hu says.

Few Ohio schools offer this line of study, which can be found in top-level schools such as The University of Chicago, Cornell University and University of California, Berkeley, he says.

“We need to promote this locally,” Hu says. “Hopefully this will attract students and keep them here.”

Deepesh Chandra, chief analytics officer at Bon Secours Mercy Health, says data analytics helps him to understand the hospital system’s patients, associates, clinicians, and more broadly, the communities it serves.

He foresees positions available in data engineering, data science and platform engineering, along with skill sets in projects using agile methodologies.

“Over the next three to five years, we expect the analytics team across the ministry would grow nearly 100% year over year, signifying the demand and influence data has in the way we provide care,” Chandra says. “The future workforce must be agile and bring analytical thinking in all ways of working. We are seeking highly technical analysts as well as talent that understands business functions such as finance, supply chain, clinical operations, etc.”

Organizations such as Mercy Health must help to determine how to best fill the pipeline of talent with these specific skills, Chandra says. This starts with the formal training and recruitment from an academic perspective. The future workforce will not be able to avoid data analytics in any field, he says.

“Overall, a basic understanding of data analytics is critical. And we are surrounded personally and professionally by people who are able to use data to influence decisions,” he says. “This is best augmented through foundational programs such as YSU helping to prepare students who are entering the job market in disciplines such as marketing, [human resources], supply chain, finance…”

Ed Muransky, chairman and founder of The Muransky Companies, is the CEO of Southwoods Health in Boardman. He says the Cleveland Clinic has spent billions of dollars on analytics as IBM has been looking at its files, putting all of this data together and coming up with artificial intelligence.

Information like that would tell a Southwoods Health surgeon that a patient with four or five markers in their blood is at risk for  cancer, he says. That person should have an endoscopy every year, instead of every five years.

The goal of data analytics is to shorten hospital stays and keep costs down for governmental or private health insurance, Muransky says. It is there to assist your loved ones for either more attention from their doctor to having their pills delivered to their homes when their children live out of town.

“So you have all of this information that’s going to be fed that is ultimately going to change the way that health care is going to be delivered,” Muransky says. “It’s going to be based on fact, science and analytics.”

Pictured at top: Ou Hu, center, was named YSU’s inaugural Thomas Chair in Economics May 16. He is joined by YSU provost Brien Smith and Williamson College of Business Administration Dean Betty Jo Licata.