The need for data science, or the transforming of information into highly useful data through analytical methods like algorithms, statistics, data mining and predictive analysis, is becoming increasingly more relevant in our digital world.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a timely example of how data science techniques have been deployed to monitor volumes of data and detect trends in the spread of the virus. Even beyond healthcare, technology firms, from internet providers to airlines to speech and image recognition, can utilize data science to solve complex issues. Just this year, Glassdoor ranked data science as the no. 3 best job in the country, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that data science will create around 11.5 million jobs by 2026.
The growing demand for data science and analytics experts has highlighted the lack of programs available to train college graduates to step into these roles. Nowhere is there a greater disparity than in historically Black colleges and universities.
Estimates note that, of all the currently available data science roles in the country, only 1% are held by Black or African Americans. Many historically Black colleges and universities lack the funding or resources to establish data science programs that could diversify this field.
UnitedHealthcare, in partnership with the Atlanta University Center Consortium (AUCC), the world’s oldest and largest consortium of historically Black colleges and universities, is working to remedy the absence of data science education available to Black students in the hopes of creating more diverse candidates to fill the demand for data analytics roles.
In 2019, UnitedHealth Group announced an $8.2 million partnership with the AUCC over five years. The initiative provides access to data science education for students at the consortium’s member schools (Morehouse University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Clark Atlanta University and Spelman College).
The investment is expanding training programs for minority undergraduate students and funding the launch of classroom education to teach data analytics. In addition to infusing data science across every academic discipline, the Data Science Initiative teaches students to use advanced data analytics techniques for academic research, particularly studies on disparities in minority communities.
The AUCC has a long history of producing leaders across many fields and disciplines. Its collective community of 9,000 students in Atlanta will help the UnitedHealth Group data science program reach a broad spectrum of students.
Investing in data science education is an achievement for the minority community in Georgia and a measure to provide the next generation of candidates with better data science initiatives across the country.