I think what you suggest should work fine, you just need to make sure that /home/data is read-/write-able by 'users' of your system. Then simply create symbolically linked directories to /home/data for each user, and if you create a similar symbolically linked directory in /etc/skel then it should be added to any newly created user accounts of your system.
chown :users /home/data
ln -s /home/data /home/<username>/data
ln -s /home/data /etc/skel
You should wait for someone with more experience to comment before implementing these changes.