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Closing the data divide: Training imperative to future-ready workforce

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Closing the data divide: Training imperative to future-ready workforce

In this dynamic digital economy, the more data-savvy your workforce is, the stronger your business outcomes will be. But, in Australia, data literacy remains the weakest link in the data value chain.

Organisations are generating vast amounts of data but are missing the mark when it comes to equipping employees with the skills they need to harness data-driven insights in their roles.

That’s why data literacy skills have become key areas of focus for business leaders looking for a competitive advantage in every facet of their organisation — from operations to sales to recruiting and retention. 

A recent survey conducted by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by Tableau found that 71 per cent of Australian business decision makers agree that every employee across all departments should have at least basic data skills. Yet only 33 per cent of the workers surveyed said their organisation offered them data training — representing a significant divide in expectation and execution, with Aussie employees emerging as the most dissatisfied when compared to countries like Singapore and Japan. 

In Australia, the impact of a competitive job market and talent shortage is widely felt. Recent ABS data revealed there are almost half a million job vacancies in Australia as of May 2022, more than double the vacancies from February this year.

According to the survey, investment in skills training could play a key role in driving employee retention, with 90 per cent of Australian employees more likely to stay with a company that invests in training.  

People are your strongest asset

The most powerful asset in creating business value from data is people. Employees are the ones who need to be able to harness data-driven insights to solve problems, streamline processes, innovate and ultimately make better decisions.

The ‘why’ for investing in data literacy is clear. According to the Forrester survey, 70 per cent of Australian employees are expected to use data heavily in their job by 2025, which has almost doubled since 2018 (38 per cent). 

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Businesses need to agree on the level of data proficiency required for different job types. For example, a sales representative doesn’t need the same level of knowledge as a data scientist, but both should be able to use data meaningfully in their roles. So training and investing in data literacy doesn’t mean having to train every staff member to become a data scientist — it means empowering them to succeed in their individual roles.

But when it comes to the ‘how’, where do businesses start? 

It takes an ecosystem to build a data-literate workforce

Data literacy as a shift in mindset can’t be an afterthought. Leaders have a pivotal role to play in instilling the day-to-day discipline to use data.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, here are a few ways to get started: 

  • What does training look like? – Looking at what the business is aiming to achieve through training will help assess what curriculum the business requires and identify whether a partner is needed within the ecosystem to support driving training initiatives. Lean into people analytics solutions to recruit and train more efficiently.
  • Spark curiosity – Showcasing the real-life impact of data within the business can help incentivise learning for employees who can see how data can inform decisions and change outcomes.
  • Gamify data training – If employee engagement is a barrier to implementing a training program, the ability to understand data as a second language through a gamification program can play a vital role in creating engaging learning programs. 
  • Build a safe space for collaboration – Consider creating internal communities to support employee learning. Implementing formal training is a great first step, but moving beyond that is important. Businesses can benefit from creating a space where employees can collaborate, share and learn from each other beyond formal training. 

Investing in data skills is worth it

Investing in data skills has certainly been paying off for many organisations. Some of the noticeable benefits have been greater innovation, better customer experiences, smarter decision making, lower costs and higher revenues.

For example, the leading Australian-owned toll road operator and developer Transurban, needed to create a strong data culture to ensure employees were fully equipped with the right skills and confident about making data-driven decisions. With visual analytics, almost half of all Transurban employees have developed the data skills to get greater insights into everything from what’s happening on the roads to accident hotspots and customer behaviour. 

The company’s data culture has been built through investment in the implementation of regular training sessions, external support from a partner and an internal centre of excellence.

When it comes to investing in data skills, the question is no longer about who’s responsible for training employees — it’s about how we accelerate the path to becoming a data-driven organisation. The last two years have made it crystal clear that data-driven insights are essential for organisations to make fast, informed decisions — transforming insights into action.

Businesses need to remember that the most important investment they make is in people. And ultimately, unlocking the true value of data is a team sport. Having team members that are skilled in data and analytics, especially as the volume of data continues to grow exponentially, is what will position organisations for success in an increasingly digital world. 

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

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At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

BALTIMORE (AP) — Teams of engineers worked Saturday on the intricate process of cutting and lifting the first section of twisted steel from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, which crumpled into the Patapsco River this week after a massive cargo ship crashed into one of its supports.

Sparks could be seen flying from a section of bent and crumpled steel in the afternoon, and video released by officials in the evening showed demolition crews using a cutting torch to slice through the thick beams. The joint incident command said in a statement that the work was being done on the top of the north side of the collapsed structure.

Crews were carefully measuring and cutting the steel from the broken bridge before attaching straps so it can be lifted onto a barge and floated away, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said.

Seven floating cranes — including a massive one capable of lifting 1,000 tons — 10 tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels and five Coast Guard boats were on site in the water southeast of Baltimore.

Each movement affects what happens next and ultimately how long it will take to remove all the debris and reopen the ship channel and the blocked Port of Baltimore, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

“I cannot stress enough how important today and the first movement of this bridge and of the wreckage is. This is going to be a remarkably complicated process,” Moore said.

Undeterred by the chilly morning weather, longtime Baltimore resident Randy Lichtenberg and others took cellphone photos or just quietly looked at the broken pieces of the bridge, which including its steel trusses weigh as much as 4,000 tons.

“I wouldn’t want to be in that water. It’s got to be cold. It’s a tough job,” Lichtenberg said from a spot on the river called Sparrows Point.

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The shock of waking up Tuesday morning to video of what he called an iconic part of the Baltimore skyline falling into the water has given way to sadness.

“It never hits you that quickly. It’s just unbelievable,” Lichtenberg said.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

One of the first goals for crews on the water is to get a smaller auxiliary ship channel open so tugboats and other small barges can move freely. Crews also want to stabilize the site so divers can resume searching for four missing workers who are presumed dead.

Two other workers were rescued from the water in the hours following the bridge collapse, and the bodies of two more were recovered from a pickup truck that fell and was submerged in the river. They had been filling potholes on the bridge and while police were able to stop vehicle traffic after the ship called in a mayday, they could not get to the construction workers, who were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

The crew of the cargo ship Dali, which is managed by Synergy Marine Group, remained on board with the debris from the bridge around it, and were safe and were being interviewed. They are keeping the ship running as they will be needed to get it out of the channel once more debris has been removed.

The vessel is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd. and was chartered by Danish shipping giant Maersk.

The collision and collapse appeared to be an accident that came after the ship lost power. Federal and state investigators are still trying to determine why.

Assuaging concern about possible pollution from the crash, Adam Ortiz, the Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, said there was no indication in the water of active releases from the ship or materials hazardous to human health.

REBUILDING

Officials are also trying to figure out how to handle the economic impact of a closed port and the severing of a major highway link. The bridge was completed in 1977 and carried Interstate 695 around southeast Baltimore.

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Maryland transportation officials are planning to rebuild the bridge, promising to consider innovative designs or building materials to hopefully shorten a project that could take years.

President Joe Biden’s administration has approved $60 million in immediate aid and promised the federal government will pay the full cost to rebuild.

Ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore remains suspended, but the Maryland Port Administration said trucks were still being processed at marine terminals.

The loss of a road that carried 30,000 vehicles a day and the port disruption will affect not only thousands of dockworkers and commuters, but also U.S. consumers, who are likely to feel the impact of shipping delays. The port handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other U.S. facility.

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Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington, D.C.; Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tennessee; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed.

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The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

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The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

DALLAS (AP) — The Texas attorney general has opened an investigation into a key Boeing supplier that is already facing scrutiny from federal regulators over quality of parts that it provides to the aircraft maker.

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said it began looking into Spirit AeroSystems because of “apparent manufacturing defects” in parts that “have led to numerous concerning or dangerous incidents.”

In a statement Friday, a Spirit spokesman said, “While we do not comment on investigations, Spirit is wholly focused on providing the highest quality products to all our customers, to include the Boeing Company.”

Paxton asked the Wichita, Kansas-based supplier to turn over documents produced since the start of 2022 about communication with investors and Boeing about flaws in parts and corrective steps the company took.

The request goes into detail in seeking internal discussions around Spirit’s efforts to create a diverse workforce “and whether those commitments are unlawful or are compromising the company’s manufacturing processes.” Paxton asked for a breakdown of Spirit’s workforce by race, sexual orientation and other factors, and whether the makeup has changed over time.

Since a Spirit-made door-plug panel blew off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max in January, some conservatives have tried to link aviation safety to diversity at manufacturers.

Paxton is a conservative Republican who this week agreed to pay $271,000 in restitution to victims and take 15 hours of training in legal ethics to settle felony charges of securities fraud. Paxton did not admit wrongdoing in the 9-year-old case.

The Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation into Boeing Spirit after the Alaska Airlines incident. An FAA audit of manufacturing procedures in Spirit’s factory gave the company failing grades in seven of 13 areas.

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Boeing is in talks to buy back Spirit, which it spun off nearly 20 years ago, as part of a plan to tighten oversight of manufacturing in its supply chain.

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