WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today unveiled the IBM Analytics Talent Assessment, a first-of-its-kind online platform that provides university students with data-driven insights that aim to help narrow the Big Data and Analytics skills gap and foster talent for the next-generation workforce. (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20131112/NY15267-INFO)(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20090416/IBMLOGO) Using IBM Analytics Talent Assessment, university students can gauge their readiness for public and private sector Big Data and analytics careers and gain guidance on ways to further develop and position themselves for these in-demand jobs through a simple online questionnaire. In addition to benefitting students and universities, talent assessments help organizations identify and hire the right candidate for the right job. They can also enable them to more accurately predict performance, thereby adding greater efficiencies to an organization's human capital management strategy. The new initiative was announced as part of a White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Big Data event held in Washington. The event is a response to the Obama Administration's call for multi-stakeholder partnerships that harness the power of Big Data to spark advancements in key national initiatives, such as economic growth, education, health, energy and sustainability. Starting this month, students from eight universities that are piloting IBM's Assessment can access the platform, engage in an online test, and after completion receive personalized reports with guidance on how to bolster their aptitude for data-crunching jobs. These pilot universities are part of the more than 1,000 IBM Academic Initiative partners that collaborate with IBM to offer Big Data and analytics curriculum: Fordham University, George Washington University, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Massachusetts Boston, Northwestern University, The Ohio State University, Southern Methodist University and the University of Virginia. As employers in the public and private sectors seek to fill the 4.4 million jobs being created to support Big Data by 2015* university students worldwide are on the hunt for curriculum to prepare them for data-crunching careers. The good news: innovative coursework is being launched at a rapid clip, often via business schools with classes providing essential IT and business skills, from software proficiency to project management. However, to succeed in analytics jobs, students also need to develop a wide range of "soft skills": subtle aptitudes, personal traits and values that can be difficult to pinpoint and cannot always be learned in the classroom.