Analyse this! To get ahead Social Analytics is the new skill to have in our data-driven world

Alan Smith, Judith Archer, Rhys Jones

Social Analytics is the scientific investigation of society using statistical techniques/analysis. With the rise of social media it has been used by big businesses for intelligence gathering for example to identify, predict, and respond to consumer behaviour.

It can be particularly relevant to a career in social care, public health or local and national government. Cardiff University and Agored Cymru are developing new units called Social Analytics, available for the majority of Access to Higher Education diplomas in Wales.

Although key skills in areas such as numeracy and literacy will always be high on the tick-list of any potential employer, the ability to process and critically evaluate data is much sought after by big business.

Alan Smith from the Welsh awarding body Agored Cymru, explored this skills gap in Social Analytics alongside Cardiff University, and this work is now being developed as part of the longstanding relationship between the two organisations. Learners accessing a range of courses designed to help get them into a career or access higher education can now learn the basics of Social Analytics as part of their studies thanks to this groundbreaking development.

Judith Archer, Argoed Cymru’s Curriculum Specialist and Development Manager for Essential Skills, says: “It’s all to do with the different type of data social scientists use to make informed decisions. The correct data needs to be sourced, analysed in the most meaningful way and the results carefully evaluated. It may be used, for example, to examine the effectiveness of public health campaigns; such as national non smoking days or healthy eating promotions. You need to assess whether there have been changes in public behaviour across the population and whether this is the result of the campaign or other outside influences.

"If you stop and think about it, you often see statistics printed and you may question the basis of their findings; where do they get the statistics from? In recent years statistics have been presented showing that people admitted to hospital at the weekend have a lower survival rate. The statistics have to be examined a little more closely. Is it really less safe or are you simply more likely to go into hospital at the weekend if you are really ill?”

Working with Cardiff University, Agored Cymru has developed units of learning based on Social Analytics that will be available either through its Access to Higher Education Diploma or as free standing units that can be used on other courses.

Mrs Archer says: “We are trying to encourage the inclusion of social analytics into lots of different courses. For example, it would be ideal as one of the subjects on a social science course.”

Of the groundbreaking link up with academics in the capital she says: “We have a working agreement with Cardiff University to try and expand the use of Social Analytics. It’s good for us as it shows that higher education is prepared to work with us and values our skills and expertise. Cardiff University is seen as being one of the best in the UK and certainly the best in Wales.”

Explaining the need for such a qualification she says: “It has been developed to address the growing demand from public, private and third sector employers for quantitatively-literate and competent social science graduates, as part of the Q-Step initiative. We started out with a very generic unit but we have been tweaking it so that lots more people will see that it’s relevant to their area of study. There’s a real shortage of people with these skills. So what we are trying to do at the moment is to encourage the colleges and people delivering the actual provision to take this subject on board, so that they can help provide a workforce with these skills.

Employers are increasingly demanding that potential employees demonstrate these analytical skills.  Read more

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