An Ottawa company has joined the global rush for talent in the area of data analytics.

Trico Print started hiring specialists about four years ago, to transform the company from a manufacturer of flyers and direct mailouts into a data-driven marketing machine.

Dean McJannet Trico Evolution Data Analytics

Dean McJannet is the vice-president of Trico Evolution, a company which recently made the switch to working in data analytics. (CBC)

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“In the print industry, we’ve seen a huge decline in the need of actual, physical print items,” said Dean McJannet, vice-president of the company now known as Trico Evolution.

“We had to evolve to meet the demands of clients.”

Increasingly, McJannet said, what clients wanted was to better target their marketing.

In many cases, clues about how to do that were locked up in their own databases of donor and customer information.

McJannet began hiring people who knew how to find those buried treasures. One of them was Amanda Pagoulatos, who’d been working in data analytics for years after getting a university education in management information systems.

“Marketing is changing. It’s no longer the realm of the creative alone,” said Pagoulatos, now senior manager of analytics at Trico Evolution.

“It’s now bringing in disciplines from a variety of fields, and those fields are coming from the sciences and computer science specifically.”

Number of workers could more than double

But the new employment opportunities aren’t just in marketing.

Organizations in both the public and private sector are snapping up experts like Pagoulatos to help them make sense of the massive amounts of data they now routinely collect.

Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco Susan Burgess Kate Porter CBC Ottawa Work Shift

From left, CBC Ottawa reporters Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco, Susan Burgess and Kate Porter. (Kristy Nease/CBC)

"The supply stream is quite tapped out,” said Sharif Faisal, an economist with the Information and Communications Technology Council.

“People can’t get their hands on enough people who do this kind of work.”

Faisal says there are about 40,000 people working as data analytics specialists in Canada now.

That includes a broad range of workers, from IT experts who prepare data for analysis, to those who can translate the findings to the language of business.

He’s forecasting demand for 100,000 such workers in the next three to five years.

Growing demand in government, healthcare

Universities are responding to that need by building new courses for students.

In Ottawa, the Telfer School of Management has partnered with IBM as well as the University of Ottawa’s School of Engineering and Computer Science to get students the right combination of training.

Sharif Faisal Information and Communications Technology Council

Sharif Faisal is an economist and labour market analyst with the Information and Communications Technology Council. (CBC)

Management professor Greg Richards says meeting the growing demand for data analytics expertise means getting some people to step out of their comfort zone.

“Many of us probably did stats in high school and kind of went “Oh, groan,” said Richards.

“Well guess what? All if a sudden it’s really cool stuff now, because you have so much data available to you, you can do some really interesting things.”

Richards sees a growing demand for data analytics specialists in the federal public service and in healthcare.

For example, a hospital might want to analyze data to connect the reason a patient comes in, with the length of their stay, to better predict when beds will become available as well as the hospital’s staffing needs.

Trico Evolution’s Dean McJannet says he’s looking to hire more qualified people.

And while their numbers are small now, he says the city of Ottawa has many of the right ingredients to produce more, with the skills already prevalent in the high tech, public relations and marketing communities.

“You start finding individuals that have these very unique skill sets to meet this new challenge that the market is creating of translating data into good strategy,” said McJannet.

“It’s got this fantastic labour pool, that for organizations like ourselves when we’re doing a startup, provides a tremendous amount of opportunity.”