As demand for data skills reaches unprecedented levels, we can’t rely on the education systems of yesterday to deliver the competencies that organisations need now. Professional apprenticeships can offer a better route for young career starters and also for established professionals who need to re-skill.
Demand for specialist data skills has tripled since 2013 and these are set to be the fastest-growing digital skills cluster over the next five years. As technical capabilities grow, the future will see new jobs that don’t exist today and the shape of existing jobs will change dramatically.
Yet 74% of us report feeling overwhelmed when working with data. According to research by Accenture, this lack of data literacy costs UK businesses £10 billion a year in lost productivity. It shows a significant - and costly - skills gap that presents an enormous threat to businesses and the economy.
The untapped potential here is enormous. There are 100,000 unfilled data positions in the UK, according to the government. If we can up-skill the workforce and teach those vital skills to the next generation of workers, we can access a windfall of new jobs and new opportunities.
Old ways of teaching
The problem is that the old ways of teaching are letting businesses down. At every level of the current education system, data and IT skills are neglected. The number of students taking IT subjects at GCSE has fallen by 40% since 2015. Only 48% of UK employers believe young people are leaving school with sufficiently advanced digital skills, and only 18% of young people are confident that they have the advanced digital skills the market demands.
The old route of A-levels and universities are also doing very little to support diversity in these new areas of the economy. Female students represented just 17% of A-level entrants in IT subjects and just 16% of undergraduate starts in Computer Science. Even when they graduate, the odds are still stacked against certain groups of students. Only 57% of those accepted into grad schemes attended state schools and the BAME attainment gap continues to affect students of colour at university.
There must be a better way to get these data skills into the hands of diverse talent. At Multiverse, we do it through professional apprenticeships - a 12-plus month applied learning experience focused on developing in-demand skills for the future of work. Apprentices are fully employed from day one and earn while they learn.
Open to all, professional apprenticeships empower everyone to up-skill at any stage of their career. From young people who might be choosing a data apprenticeship over a degree, to established professionals who are enhancing their skills to prepare for the future, or even those whose jobs are at risk from automation and looking to change career.
The best jobs of the next decade can’t just go to the same people as the best jobs of the last decade.
The best jobs of the next decade can’t just go to the same people as the best jobs of the last decade. That’s at the heart of why we exist - 40% of the apprentices we place have claimed free school meals, more than half are from minority ethnic backgrounds, and 57% are women.
We’re also pioneering in the space of teaching and learning. Our applied learning methodology ensures that apprentices are putting everything they learn straight into use in their work. That helps them retain information and gives them the real digital skills they’ll need throughout their career. It’s these learning innovations that explain why our apprentices graduate on time with good grades - and then stay or get promoted with the company that trained them.
An outstanding alternative to university
Our mission is to build an outstanding alternative to university and corporate training. Just this month, we made another big step towards that goal by introducing our first degree-level apprenticeship in data skills. The Advanced Data Fellowship empowers apprentices to develop their skills in data analysis and data science while adding value to their businesses. Apprentices also build core capabilities in areas like statistical testing, data ethics, predictive modelling and data security. At the end of the programme, they earn a degree in Data Analytics without having accrued any debt.
Walk into any boardroom meeting (or, more likely, videoconference) today and no doubt they’ll be discussing one of the most pressing challenges that businesses face today - how do we get the right skills? The answer isn’t to rely on more of the same - school and university isn’t creating enough data experts and it certainly isn’t driving diversity.
Instead, we’re encouraging businesses to look towards professional apprenticeships: workplace training that gives employees the best start - or the best progression - in their careers.
Lisa Barrett is VP learning and delivery at Multiverse. Prior to joining Multiverse, Lisa held a variety of distinguished roles including director of analysis, data-driven department and culture change at the Ministry of Justice UK.