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February 13, 2014

MathWorks Urges Industry, Academia to Work Together to Improve Graduate Skills



If you don't have a head for figures then it's tough to make a foray into the financial services industry. This is because investment firms, banks and other financial institutions are turning to statistical, computational and mathematical models to gain valuable insights and a competitive edge – much to the dismay of U.K. graduates, who potentially lacked the core skills required to succeed in this industry, according to MathWorks.

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“Effective models have become the key to success for financial firms, as they seek to harness the wealth of data they hold in order to manage risk and identify competitive advantages,” explained Steve Wilcockson, industry manager for financial services at MathWorks.

MathWorks, the world's leading developer of technical computing software, investigated the skills gap in the U.K. financial services industry, and found it rather disconcerting that there was a big gulf between the skills graduates possessed and the skills that were actually desired. These survey results tallied with those from other surveys.

While a majority of survey respondents agreed that there was a skills gap, 34 percent believed that the situation had worsened over the last three years (not much consolation that). However, though a section of  respondents felt graduates needed improved skills in maths, statistics, and data analysis, they didn't believe that the situation was hopeless.

More than 40 percent felt that the situation could be remedied by integrating real-world problems into curricula and by providing a stronger focus on IT and maths in secondary schools. Thirty seven believed that university students should be encouraged to combine IT and maths skills.

Experts from the financial services industry put their heads to discuss the skills gap and concluded that the 'application of real-world project-based learning and greater collaboration between academia and industry as key to success.'

In addition, they also recommended a holistic combination of  multiple science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects, integration of industry thinking into the curriculum, and greater engagement of industry in the development of graduates.

“Industry and academia need to work together to address this problem and ensure students are well prepared for their careers by understanding the needs of industry and reflecting this in curricula,”  noted Wilcockson, indicating that the situation was not irredeemable.

The survey was conducted in London through 43 in-person interviews and respondents were drawn from the buy and sell sides and academia.




Edited by Cassandra Tucker
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