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21st century skills for a 21st century workforce

A first-of-its-kind educational program aims to build students’ interest in data science.

Young woman smiling and listening in a group setting
3 min read |

When it comes to the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” part of the hurdle for students is understanding their options. Young people are often underexposed to learning paths, potential jobs, and career paths, and lack the diverse skillsets that today’s workforce requires. That includes data literacy: Only 21% of 16- to 24-year-old students are considered data literate.1

Nowhere is that more apparent than technology-focused areas, particularly data science. Roles in this field are expected to grow 15%2 in a decade—a faster-than-average rate—with a base salary of over $120,000.3 But there’s a shortage—up to 250,000 by some estimates—of qualified professionals to meet that demand.4

So if students need more exposure to careers and data science needs more professionals, what’s the solution? DataSetGo, a collaboration between Principal® Foundation and EVERFI, offers a free, first-of-its-kind educational option.

Data skills for students

EVERFI supplies digital educational programming, and the DataSetGo program includes two data science and financial literacy components geared toward high schoolers. The first, Data Science Foundations, consists of four modules that can be completed in approximately two hours. Those include an explanation of the basics of data science and simple skill building, from collecting and analyzing to reporting on data.

The second part, Data Science Exploration: Financial Wellness, ties data science as a field to its practical application in financial services careers through interactive simulations in a 30-minute exercise. “Our goal is to empower students with education that provides a powerful pairing between financial literacy and college and career readiness,” says Jo Christine Miles, Principal Foundation and community relations director.

To ensure its relevance, the curriculum was reviewed by volunteer IT subject matter experts in the field. Murugan Nambiar, a program manager at Principal® who focuses on data and analytics, had an opportunity to offer feedback and support to ensure content resonated. “I’ve got a set of experiences and background that I thought I could bring to the table, and it seemed like a great opportunity for me to give back to the community,” Nambiar says.

The program in action

During his volunteer review, Nambiar found himself impressed by the structure and deliberation of the curriculum. “It doesn’t just expose students to data science and financial services in the abstract—it really applies it in believable scenarios,” he says.

DataSetGo got its first test run during the 2021–2022 school year when 6,000 students in more than 160 schools completed the course. Initial results showed promise: Students doubled assessment scores related to data science skills and processes.

The program will reach a wider student base in the 2022–2023 school year, with students in 11 cities— Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas; Des Moines, Iowa; Folsom, California; Minneapolis; New York City; Raleigh, North Carolina; Seattle; Washington D.C.; and Wilmington, Delaware—participating. The DataSetGo curriculum is free; students over the age of 13 can self-enroll or educators can enroll to offer the modules as part of a classroom curriculum.