Demand for business intelligence across industries and around the world is growing fast — and workers who are uniquely skilled to gather, analyze and report such mission-critical information are poised to lead their markets.

Global sales of business intelligence (BI) tools generated $10.5 billion in revenue in 2010 — up 13.4 percent over the previous year, according to market research firm Gartner.

Industry experts agree that smart BI tools are only one part of an important equation. For the best results, they must be used by efficient and effective researchers, analysts and communicators.

However, the world’s workforce isn’t equipped to meet skyrocketing demands for business intelligence — which include continual and forward-looking analyses of a competitive marketplace. Colleges and universities are woefully behind in offering instruction that prepares graduates to meet employers’ actual needs, according to an international survey sponsored by Business Intelligence Congress II, a meeting of BI professors and industry professionals.

Of 129 colleges and universities surveyed, only three offered BI instruction at the undergraduate level, and only 12 offered BI instruction in graduate programs.

“Also, students are not being exposed to a BI that reflects real-world context,” said Barbara Wixom, an associate professor at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce who also directs Teradata University Network, which conducted the survey.

Universities are struggling to provide students with real-world training partly because companies don’t want to provide their proprietary information for classroom instruction — making it hard for professors like Wixom to develop adequate BI curricula.

That juggernaut is not going to slow demand for BI-savvy employees. In the United States alone, roughly 190,000 workers with “deep analytical talent” and another 1.5 million “data-savvy managers and analysts” will be needed by 2018, according to projections released in May by McKinsey Global Institute.

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