SAS and NWU help build Data Science skills by bringing analytics to students

SAS and NWU today announced the launch of the SAS Advanced Analytics Laboratory in the Centre for BMI, the first of its kind in SA.

March 15, 2013

SAS and North-West University (NWU) today announced the launch of the SAS Advanced Analytics Laboratory in the Centre for Business Mathematics and Informatics (BMI), the first of its kind in South Africa.

Through the Centre for BMI, students will be able to enroll for an MSc BMI in Advanced Business Analytics. This degree will give BMI Business Analytics students the skills to understand the role analytics can play in business’s decision-making process and prepare them to become executives who can manage that function. This function can help companies to identify business issues and implement solutions two to four years faster.

Says Murray de Villiers, General Manager: Middle East, Africa Regional Academic Programme at SAS: “We realised from interaction with companies in South Africa, that there is a real need for the skillful application of advanced analytics in the business realm, including the associated advanced analytics application skills. Generally, those skills aren’t being taught at local universities, and we want to be at the forefront of changing that.”

The programme, which already has 17 students signed up for 2013, is designed to take on board analytically talented students who will be able to obtain a SAS accreditation within as little as two weeks. It will bring students on par with professionals within the industry and enable them to ‘hit the ground running’ when employed.

Over and above the analytics theory students will learn, each of them will be part of a multi-disciplinary team running industry projects with companies such as NASPERS, MTN, ABSA, Nedbank and RealPeople. The projects cover areas like Market Basket Analysis, Customer Loyalty Modelling, Credit Bureau Data Analysis and Customer Lifetime Value Modelling. The projects will allow them to work with industry professionals to analyse big data, business issues and provide real-life solutions that can be implemented by the companies.

Says Professor Machiel Kruger, Head of the SAS Advanced Analytics Lab and Professional Masters Programmes: “Worldwide, businesses, public and private, large and small, capture data on a daily basis. This data deluge has created a serious need in the labour market for skilled Analytics Professionals who can use sophisticated analytical techniques and computer technology to analyse business problems, optimise data-driven decision making and provide business solutions in a dynamically changing world.”

“Given the size of the datasets and the complexity of the problems found in data-driven organisations, analytics professionals that have experience in the application of industry standard software technology are in great demand. These include data management, data visualisation, predictive analytics and reporting. Given our relationship with SAS, they were our natural choice for software technology.”

Says De Villiers: “Our relationship with NWU dates back thirteen years and we are proud to be partnering with the NWU’s Centre for BMI to launch the SAS Advanced Analytics Laboratory, which we hope will be the first of many. The NWU Centre for BMI’s proven leadership has been crucial in establishing the laboratory as they have the required expertise and business experience for the task. They have taken the need for analytics skills to heart and are changing the playing field for South African education.”

“There’s no denying that, to compete in the modern marketplace, you have to be able to interpret massive amounts of data and be able to turn on a dime with your decision-making. It’s very clear that in business, if you’re not using analytics, you’re going to get left behind.”