Data science apprenticeships; learning pathways for upskilling staff

Apprenticeships in data science and AI provide a well-defined route for internal talent development.

Over the last decade, skills in data science and AI have become increasingly valuable for organisations of all sizes and across all sectors. But across the UK, there isn’t enough talent to meet the rising demand;

  • IBM predicts there will be 700,000 job openings for Data Scientists in 2020 alone

  • The demand for Machine Learning Engineers is predicted to surpass that of Data Scientists - as more companies invest in AI solutions

As organisations struggle with the shortage of talent, apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships provide a new and exciting opportunity for employees to upskill into new technical roles, including Data Analyst, Data Scientist and Machine Learning Engineer.

What apprenticeships are there?

Apprenticeships to upskill people into Data Analyst roles:

This apprenticeship is also suitable for advancing the skill set of people who work with data on a regular basis but aren’t looking to become Data Analysts. For example, people in Marketing, HR or Media roles where they are required to analyse data on a regular basis.

Apprenticeships for upskilling people into Data Scientist roles:

Apprenticeships for upskilling people into Machine Learning Engineer roles:

How can apprenticeships help?

Apprenticeships provide a well-defined route for internal talent development, enabling you to grow and retain data science talent within your organisation.

Apprenticeships have moved on from what they used to be and are now open to current as well as new employees, people of any age, and even those with previous qualifications. They can be for people early in their careers as well as experienced talent looking to advance their skill set or change careers, which is increasingly necessary as the world of work changes.

What’s more, apprenticeships in England are funded by the government’s Apprenticeship Levy scheme. If you are a large organisation with an annual salary bill of over £3 million, you can have your apprenticeships 100% funded by the government. Smaller employers only have to pay 5% of the cost.

Benefits of apprenticeships:

  • Upskill new and existing employees into emerging data science roles
  • Improve employee retention by investing in their development
  • Increase diversity of thinking within the organisation
  • Emphasis on practical experience and real-world projects to ensure skills and knowledge are embedded in your organisation right away

“80% of companies who invest in apprenticeships for their existing talent report a significant increase in employee retention.” Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR)

Apprenticeships offer experienced professionals an opportunity to advance their skill set or retrain as a technical specialist working and leading on big data business solutions whilst in full-time employment.

Apprenticeships offer graduates an opportunity to apply and deepen their existing knowledge and skills whilst in full-time employment and to work in specialist teams within organisations.

For school leavers wanting to pursue a career in Data Analytics or Data Science (in either analytics or business intelligence), apprenticeships offer a valuable and cost-friendly alternative to traditional university education. Apprentices get practical experience from day one.

“Apprenticeships have moved on from what they used to be and are an exciting option for both apprentice and employer. You can now employ apprentices at all different levels, from school leavers to people that want to further their careers or change career direction completely. An apprentice can be aged 16 or 100 plus!” apprenticeships.gov.uk

An overview of the apprenticeship programmes

Data Analyst Apprenticeship (L4)

  • Fast-track programme to equip apprentices with practical data analysis skills, including Python
  • Suitable for people in roles where they are required to carry out data analysis, or for upskilling people into Data Analyst roles in HR, Finance, Marketing, Operations, Consumer Insights etc.
  • Entry-level course for beginner programmers and those with no previous programming experience

Data Science BSc (L6)

  • Extended, more in-depth route to upskill people into junior Data Scientist roles
  • Apprentices gain a degree qualification
  • Entry-level course for beginner programmers and those with no previous programming experience

Data Science Apprenticeship (L7)

  • Fast-track programme for upskilling people into Data Scientist roles
  • Apprentices must have intermediate Python programming skills

Digital Technology Solutions (Data Analytics) MSc (L7)

  • A more academic route to upskill people into Data Scientist roles
  • Apprentices gain a masters qualification
  • Apprentices must have intermediate Python programming skills and a STEM degree (e.g. the Data Science BSc)

Machine Learning Engineer Apprenticeship (L7)

  • Fast-track programme for upskilling people into Machine Learning Engineer roles
  • Apprentices must have a Computer Science degree or at least two years’ experience in software engineering

Apprenticeships vs Degree apprenticeships - what’s the difference?

Apprenticeships

  • Accelerated development programmes (14-15 months)
  • Learn technical skills fast and make an impact in the workplace straight away
  • Delivered on a flexible, self-paced learning basis to ensure maximum flexibility
  • Apprentices undertake a final project and endpoint assessment which includes an exam and interview
  • Apprentices gain an apprenticeship certificate

Degree apprenticeships

  • Extended, in-depth development programmes (2-4 years)
  • Provides foundational knowledge and skills leading to more in-depth content than an apprenticeship
  • Learners undertake a research dissertation project for their organisation
  • Apprentices gain a degree qualification

What learning pathways are there for each role?

There are a number of well-defined learning pathways to upskill people into different technical roles. There are also opportunities for people in non-technical roles to advance their skill set to improve performance and efficiencies in their role.

Data Analyst pathway:

Data Analyst Apprenticeship (L4)

  • The fastest route to upskilling people into Data Analyst roles - upskill in just 14 months
  • Apprentices will learn how to programme using Python (the world’s most popular programming language), process big data and build and implement machine learning models
  • Apprentices do not need a degree to be eligible for the programme
  • Suitable for school leavers, graduates and experienced professionals with no previous/limited experience in data science or Python
  • This programme is also suitable for people who don’t want to move into Data Analyst roles but who are required to work with large datasets as part of their role, e.g. in HR, Finance or Media. Apprentices will learn the latest data analysis tools and techniques using Python to make a greater impact in their work.
  • Option to progress in the future into a Data Scientist role with the Data Science Apprenticeship (L7) or DTS Data Analytics MSc (L7). Note - employees must have a STEM degree to be eligible for the MSc.

“Python is the leading trend in job offers in the UK. This is because almost every data-related role requires knowledge of Python. It has become the must-have language for Data Scientists / Data Analysts.” Data Career

“The language’s two main advantages are its simplicity and flexibility. Its straightforward syntax and use of indented spaces make it easy to learn, read and share.” The Economist

Data Scientist pathway:

Start with: Data Analyst Apprenticeship (L4) or Data Science BSc (L6)

Progress to:  Data Science Apprenticeship (L7) or DTS Data Analytics MSc (L7)

  • This route is for upskilling people with no data science background and no/limited experience of Python into Data Scientist roles
  • The Data Analyst Apprenticeship (L4) is the ideal starting point for people who already have a degree and/or want to upskill quickly
  • The Data Science BSc (L6), on the other hand, is an attractive option for those who want to gain a degree whilst working and/or who require more in-depth knowledge of data science for their job
  • On completing either the apprenticeship or BSc, learners can take the fast-track route to upskill into a Data Scientist role with the Data Science Apprenticeship (L7). This is suited to those looking to upskill quickly and make an impact fast.
  • Alternatively, they can go on to study for the DTS Data Analytics MSc (L7). This is a good option for those wanting to gain a masters degree and/or gain more in-depth knowledge of data science for their role. To be eligible for the MSc, apprentices must have a degree in a STEM subject (e.g. Data Science BSc) and GCSE Maths.
  • People with some experience in data science and who are already using Python at an intermediate level can go straight onto the Data Science Apprenticeship (L7) or DTS Data Analytics MSc (L7). They do not need to complete the L4 apprenticeship or L6 BSc first.

Machine Learning Engineer pathway:

Machine Learning Engineer Apprenticeship (L7)

  • This is a fast-track route to upskill people into Machine Learning Engineer roles.
  • Apprentices will learn how to create programmes and algorithms that enable machines to take actions without being directed, so they can produce and maintain systems that can be used to leverage insights across the business.
  • To be eligible for this apprenticeship, learners must have a Computer Science degree and/or two years of software engineering experience.

Summary

Apprenticeship learning pathways provide employers with an exciting opportunity to build their internal data science and AI capabilities at scale.

Employers have the choice of two routes for enrolling talent onto apprenticeship programmes with Cambridge Spark. For upskilling teams of 16-22, we can design and run your own in-house Data Analyst or Data Science academy, with case studies and workshops tailored to your business. Alternatively, individuals or small teams can join learners from other organisations in our open enrolment programmes that run throughout the year.

If you would like to find out more about our apprenticeship programmes and learning pathways designed to tackle the nationwide shortage of Data Analysts, Data Scientists and Machine Learning Engineers, please get in touch.

The Complete Guide to Apprenticeships in Data Science and AI 2020

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