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Tableau makes data literacy a priority with new pledge

As organizations increasingly turn to data to inform decisions, more data workers are needed. To address demand, Tableau pledged to help train 10 million data learners worldwide.

With data literacy an increasingly important skill, Tableau on Tuesday said it is committed to help train 10 million data learners over the next 10 years.

The vendor, founded in 2003 and based in Seattle, made the pledge during Tableau Conference 2021, its virtual user conference.

According to a Tableau-sponsored report by consulting firm IDC, 83% of 1,100 CEOs surveyed expect their organizations to be more data-driven. Only a third of employees, however, are comfortable using data to inform their decisions.

Tableau said it is intent on closing that gap between demand for data-driven decision making and employees enabled with the data literacy and self-service analytics skills to make those data-driven decisions.

"Data-driven organizations perform better, and digital skills are at the top of every hiring wish list," said Mark Nelson, Tableau's president and CEO, during a virtual press conference Monday preceding Tableau Conference.

He added that, according to the IDC report, jobs requiring digital skills will increase from -- especially data analytics and visualization -- will increase dramatically by 2026. To fuel that increase, however, more than just a third of employees need to be comfortable using data to inform decision making.

We need to turn what's typically been a job for a few into a skill for everyone.
Mark NelsonPresident and CEO, Tableau

"We need to turn what's typically been a job for a few into a skill for everyone," Nelson said. "Much more is needed if we're going to meet the world's demand for data people. Closing this data literacy gap is an important piece of building data culture."

Tableau is not the first analytics vendor to promote data literacy. Competitor Qlik debuted a free data literacy training program in May 2019, and later that year IBM helped create a data scientist certification program.

Tableau also previously offered training in data literacy.

But the vendor's pledge to train 10 million people is beyond the scope of previous programs.

"Ten million is a huge number," said Wayne Eckerson, founder and principal consultant at Eckerson Group. "Certainly a noble cause, and it will also help seed the next generation of analysts with Tableau skills, which will drive future sales."

He added that it will take more than data literacy training to foster the next generation of data workers, however. Organizational buy-in will be just as important to give those data workers the support they need to make their organizations truly data-driven.

Tableau president and CEO Mark Nelson
Tableau president and CEO Mark Nelson speaks during a virtual press conference prior to the vendor's user conference.

"If you have data-literate workers, but they don't have access to data or self-service tools, then they have no chance to use their data skills," Eckerson said. "Similarly, if executives don't require data to support staff decisions or there is little incentive or time to explore data, then an investment in data literacy won't pay off."

Tableau is taking a multi-pronged approach to try to reach its goal of helping 10 million people acquire data literacy and self-service analytics skills. The vendor said it is creating new training and education opportunities, expanding existing programs, and pledging $5 million from the Tableau Foundation to support global nonprofits committed to gender equity.

According to Tableau, grants from that $5 million will be given to organizations helping women and girls learn essential data skills, with a particular emphasis on communities facing barriers to data literacy.

In addition, the vendor plans to:

  • Expand Tableau's academic programs, which involved 2 million students worldwide, to provide free software licenses, online learning and curriculum to help educators worldwide as they teach analytics;
  • Introduce a new Salesforce Data Literacy Trail to provide learning opportunities through Trailhead, which is Salesforce's online learning platform (Salesforce owns Tableau);
  • Introduce both non-government and government skilling efforts such as Tableau's recent partnership with the All India Council for Technical Education to virtually train people around the world;
  • Expand Tableau's data education and apprenticeship programs by partnering with other organizations;
  • Expand access to Tableau Desktop Specialist certification through online training, certificate programs and partnerships that help connect candidates with jobs;
  • Drive awareness of learning partners such as web-based teaching platform Pathstream that focus on equitable access to data education and mentorship and help connect people with job opportunities; and
  • Add content to the Tableau Data Literacy for All program.

"We know the demand is there, we know there's a yearning for this, and this is our mission -- we help people see and understand data," Nelson said. "We can't guarantee success [reaching 10 million people], but we're going to go in there trying. This is what the world needs, and what we think we can uniquely deliver."

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