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A global survey of corporate recruiters says employers are going global in their search for MBA talent, with a preference for those with international work experience, language and soft skills.istockphoto

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

The global job market for MBA graduates looks bright next year as employer confidence slowly rebounds from the 2008 financial crisis, according to a new global survey of corporate recruiters.

Asia is the hot market, with a 20-per-cent jump in hiring forecast for 2014 over this year. That compares with a 16-per-cent rise expected by North American employers after several years of tepid demand for business graduates, according to London-based QS Intelligence Unit and

"As confidence in economic recovery arrives in North America, we are likely to see renewed demand for MBA graduates from globally oriented and local employers," observe the authors of the Jobs and Salary Trends Report, an annual survey of more than 4,000 employers in 39 countries.

The finance sector, which accounts for 25 per cent of the MBA job market, continues to recover from the 2008 global meltdown as employers expect to boost hiring by 11 per cent next year over 2013. Asia, Western Europe and the Middle East show higher demand than North America, according to the report. The consulting sector, by contrast, predicts a 4-per-cent increase in new hires next year, with smaller firms likely more active than their larger, international counterparts.

Increasingly, the report says, employers are going global in their search for MBA talent, with a preference for those with international work experience, language and soft skills.

On that note, the survey sends a strong message to business schools. For the first time in the 20-year history of the survey, global recruiters say that MBA graduates are meeting their expectations on leadership skills but not on communication, interpersonal relations and strategic thinking.

QS managing director Nunzio Quacquarelli, interviewed from London, says the recent infusion of leadership in business education curricula suggests that schools "are having an effect in creating more leadership-focused individuals."

Now, he adds, schools "need to do more in the field of communication, team-playing and international awareness."

Full-time MBA programs ranked

Fewer Canadian business schools made The Economist magazine's global survey of full-time MBA programs that this year again put the University of Chicago in the top spot.

Among a contingent of four Canadian schools on the list – down from six last year – York University's Schulich School of Business in Toronto led the pack at No. 22 (down from 16 last year).

The other Canadians schools on this year's list are (with current ranking): John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal (80); HEC Montréal (84); University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management (96). Absent from the 2013 list are McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management in Montreal; University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business in Vancouver and the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary.

For its survey, the magazine asks students why they took an MBA and its impact on their ability to boost opportunities for new careers, personal development, salary and networking.

Big Data challenge for education

The ability to mine disparate sources of information for consumer preferences, looming market risks and other bottom-line repercussions is in short supply, say analysts, with universities (and not just their business schools) seen as part of the solution.

In a recent survey by Deloitte consultants, 42 per cent of more than 100 senior executives in Canada, the United States, Britain and China say their employees lack skills in analytics to manage so-called Big Data and communicate the implications to company leaders.

"It tells me there is an opportunity in the education space to identify and target programs that will help fill the gap," says Peter Husar, a partner of analytics and information management for Deloitte in Canada. "It would result in a strong desire in the marketplace for those skills."

He is an adviser in Toronto to York University's Schulich School of Business, which introduced a master of science in business analytics in 2012. This year, Queen's University School of Business in Kingston offered a master of management analytics, still one of only two such programs in Canada.

The world of Big Data, however, is not reserved just for those highly trained in mathematics and statistics. With management of information increasingly viewed as a C-suite priority, company leaders look for data analysts able to explain the meaning of numbers without using jargon.

"What we call data scientists need to become more like storytellers, with solutions and visualizations around information that allow organizations to understand where the benefit lies," says Mr. Husar, in a nod to the narrative skills developed in humanities education. "We are seeing a lot of success with people who have more of the softer skills as a foundation that can help to make the leap to a new and interesting analytics realm," he says.

This fall, officials from Deloitte and the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ont., developed a two-month assignment for senior English major students to produce a story in written or visual ways about a collection of data. "We will provide them with the scenarios that are typical for things we see in the market," says Silvia Gonzalez Zamora, analytics talent leader for Deloitte.

"We believe all professionals will need analytics in the future," she adds, be it a lawyer examining case trends or a veterinarian assessing specimens to modify pharmaceutical treatment of animal patients.

U of W English professor Neil Randall, director of the university's games institute, says the students do not need to be math whizzes to put together their narrative for the assignment. "Storytellers can come from many different backgrounds if they learn the specifics of understanding data and interpreting and transforming it into something valuable," he says. "We have seen that even if they have these deep mathematical skills they are not able to explain it to somebody else who had not studied economics for three years."

He adds, "We believe storytelling for analytics is going to become part of any job."

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