When it comes to education, SAS co-founder and CEO Jim Goodnight backs his talk with money and resources. On Monday, SAS expanded that commitment to create a better educated U.S. workforce by announcing a partnership with Teradata that will make analytics more widely available to college students – at no cost. While SAS has worked with Teradata to create the “Legion of Analytic Superheroes” to honor industry leader, this new effort is designed to generate student (and job-candidate) superheroes. 

The world’s largest privately held software firm is absorbing expenses in order to help more students gain access to analytics tools – and, hopefully, learn how to use them in preparing for a professional career.

Like SAS,  Teradata provides database software with an increasing focus on analytics and “big data.” The companies have worked together for years on several projects, but this is the first time they have worked together on a Teradata University Network project.

The head of education at SAS talked with WRALTechWire about the decision, which was announced just four days after SAS played host to an event that highlighted the growing skills gap between America’s employers and the students looking for jobs.

“These students can hit the job market with the ability to give their management and executives insights they’ve never had, in a way they’ll understand,” Jerry Oglesby, SAS Senior Director of Education, said in the Teradata University Network deal. “TUN makes it possible for professors around the world to make this a reality.”

TUN members include Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, Shaw, N.C. Central, N.C. State, N.C. A&T, by the way.

Our Q&A with Oglesby:

  • Why is SAS choosing to participate in this program? How does SAS benefit?

SAS supports many efforts to integrate analytics into higher education instruction, including masters degree and certificate programs, free use of SAS for teaching and learning through SAS OnDemand for Academics, and other programs. We do this so that more graduates enter the workforce with valuable, data analysis skills that are in high demand by employers, including SAS and our customers. By partnering with Teradata University Network, we can give thousands of professors and students access to the latest in data visualization software from the analytics market leader.

  • Why make the analytics available free of cost?

Cost is an obstacle to our goal to integrating analytics into higher education teaching and learning. The TUN partnership is one of several programs we have that offer SAS software and training free of cost to higher education professors and students. SAS OnDemand for Academics is our primary way of doing that. SAS OnDemand for Academics is a cloud-based, online service that quickly and easily delivers the power of SAS data management and analytics software to higher education.

  • Did SAS approach Teradata or the other way around?

SAS and Teradata began collaborating jointly around this a few years ago to explore the needs of universities and where there may be synergy between SAS and Teradata in this area. After exploring with key university contacts, this was identified as a key partnership area and we began working together on it.

  • In what other areas is SAS working with Teradata on the University Network, and again – why is it doing so?

SAS and Teradata have many partnership activities, but this is the first joint offering through TUN. The partners are going to continue to explore other areas where it may make sense to continue working with TUN, working with faculty to learn their priorities and needs. There could be more of these opportunities in the future.

  • Dr. Goodnight has expressed on numerous occasions his concerns about lack of workplace ready graduates and lack of students interested in STEM education. Does SAS believe the Teradata partnership and use of analytics can deliver more job-ready workers?

With more than 45,000 students around the world, TUN is already doing a great job producing data-savvy graduates.

The addition of SAS Visual Analytics enhances students’ analytical skills with the latest in data visualization technology, and will help provide employers with a more advanced talent pool.

Together, SAS and Teradata are helping students see more than one side of the process – data and analytics – which is a valuable skill that most students don’t have exposure to. They’re either learning about the analytic environments or dealing with data and the computer science/data scientist world. This gives a more comprehensive point of view.

  • SAS already has its own education programs and works with schools K12 across the country. Are these programs being considered for expansion given Dr. Goodnight’s expressed concerns?

We are always looking for new K-12 initiatives to expand interest in STEM. Too often, by the time a student reaches college they have made a decision on whether a STEM career is right for them, and too often, the answer is no. Of those that do decide to pursue a STEM degree, 60% leave the degree program, usually due to the challenging coursework. If we can get kids interested earlier, show them the cool career possibilities in STEM, we can build a stronger STEM pipeline. We do that through offering SAS programming for high schools, STEM career days, free digital curriculum and mobile apps, and supporting many local and national education technology initiatives.

  • How many employees at SAS are directly involved in education software related efforts? Is that number growing?

SAS has many efforts in support of education with groups working with K-12 initiatives, two and four year academic institutions, and these efforts are global. Those efforts span many departments both here and around the world so it’s difficult to come up with a total number of employees involved. Our efforts are definitely growing both in reach and number.

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