Building an Internal Data Academy with the UK Apprenticeship Levy
About Cambridge Spark’s Data Analyst Apprenticeship
As Data Science education specialists, Cambridge Spark’s Data Analyst Apprenticeship draws on experience from our bootcamps and corporate training, to deliver the most expert-led apprenticeship on the market. We offer a fast-track apprenticeship over 13 months for UK-based organisations — much shorter than the guideline 24 months, incorporating both the key fundamentals of the apprenticeship standard as well as optional advanced topics in machine learning, natural language processing, neural networks and deep learning.
The taught curriculum is supplemented by employer-relevant projects to embed the learning and create a tailored educational experience. Students are supported through online communication channels and personalised, immediate feedback on assignments via K.A.T.E.® — Cambridge Spark’s proprietary Knowledge Assessment Teaching Engine.
Cambridge Spark’s teaching staff are all PhDs with relevant technical backgrounds, as well as significant industry experience to ensure a practical, applied approach to developing Data Science skills.
Becoming a Data Scientist is usually a personal responsibility. You invest time and money in a bootcamp, online course or masters and do the hard work of learning new skills on the side without compromising the day job.
Now there’s another route to becoming a Data Scientist — via a funded apprenticeship. Best of all, it’s the employers who organise the training with funding from their own apprenticeship levy funds, and give you some time off to train.
Don’t be misled by the word ‘apprentice’: the programme is open to current as well as new employees, people of any age, and even those with previous qualifications. The main criterion is that you’re learning a new skill.
This UK government scheme comes at a time when employers from all sectors are waking up to the need for more data analytics talent, and they can’t hire fast enough. The only solution is grow your own.
Currently there’s just one data apprenticeship standard available — the Data Analyst Apprenticeship (Level 4)
— which covers the collecting, managing and analysing data for business insight. It encompasses analytical techniques such as data mining, time series forecasting and modelling; understanding data structures and system design; and communicating data analysis via dashboards, visualisations and reports. It’s also a good base for more advanced data science topics.
Create an internal Data Academy using apprenticeship levy funds
If you’re an organisation paying the apprenticeship levy, and you need to bring new data skills into the organisation — particularly machine learning and AI techniques — then the levy funding represents an opportunity to create an internal data training academy to upskill cohorts of relevant staff.
Data Science training experts Cambridge Spark — now also registered apprenticeship training providers — can develop a tailored curriculum that delivers the core curriculum of the apprenticeship standard, while building in additional training in Python and advanced Data Science topics such as machine learning, natural language processing, neural networks and deep learning.
The shape of the programme is tailored to the organisation so that topics and assignments are relevant to the employer. The timing is also flexible — the standard indicates a 24-month apprenticeship, although Cambridge Spark offers an accelerated course, from 13 to 18 months long, depending on needs and skills.
Growing your own data scientists may be easier than hiring them
With organisations aiming to become more data-driven, the hiring gap is getting bigger. The problem isn’t just a supply and demand issue, but also an assessment challenge: do candidates have the data skills that their CVs indicate, and how relevant are these skills to the business? The apprenticeship levy gives control back to the employer — to upskill new or current staff through a training programme that teaches the data skills but within the context of the employer’s business.
This approach ensures the most relevant training outcomes. Whether your business wants to use data analytics for better understanding of customers, for process improvement and automation, for market insights or product development, bringing the training in-house makes sense. It enables your Data Science staff learn their craft within your work environment so the new tools of machine learning and AI can work for your business.
Get in touch with us via the form at the bottom of this article if you’d like to set-up an internal Data Academy using apprenticeship levy funding.
What do employers have to do to create an internal Data Academy within the apprenticeship levy framework?
1. Find the right training provider
2. Ensure that employees selected for the Data Academy have strong quantitative backgrounds and either existing coding skills or the aptitude to learn to code
3. Allow apprentices to use 20% of their work time for off-the-job training
4. Make sure that managers support learners in their training
5. Agree a timeframe for the Data Academy
6. Work with your training provider to agree curriculum and assignments that are relevant to your organisation
The UK government’s Apprenticeship Levy scheme came into effect in April 2017 as a way to drive investment in strengthening the country’s skills base. All organisations with staff costs of over £3m have to pay 0.5% of their salary bill into a ring-fenced apprenticeship levy pot. The money is collected monthly via PAYE, but can be clawed back within 24 months and used for training on approved apprenticeship schemes.
Companies are in a scramble to use this money — their own — before it expires and flows into the government’s coffers. The process has been off to a slow start, as organisations plan their apprenticeship strategy, understand how the process works, and find apprenticeship providers. The good news is that there are now a large number of apprenticeships standards on offer — over 300 to date — and the definition of an apprentice has broadened to include more experienced staff learning new skills.
Data Analysts, Data Scientists and Data Engineers.
Any new or current employees who meets the criteria of apprenticeship standard. They can be of any age or background, and can already have other qualifications, including undergraduate or postgraduate degrees. They must not already have had training in Data Science and analytics.
Apprentices must be employed by their sponsoring organisation.
Cambridge Spark’s Data Analyst apprenticeship is best suited to people with strong quantitative backgrounds and some coding experience or aptitude.
Yes, geography is one constraint. Although the apprenticeship levy is a UK government initiative, the levy funding is managed by each of the devolved nations. If your organisation is based in England, then only employees based in England will quality for levy funding; any employees based in Scotland would not be eligible, for example.
Apprentices gain the EMC Data Science Associate qualification
Candidates are assessed at the end of the programme by an external end-point-assessment (EPA) organisation to validate their learning. They are assessed through an exam, a summative project, an ongoing project portfolio, and an interview.
The training is all funded through the apprenticeship levy, which includes the training, access to materials and end-point assessment.
Registered apprenticeship training providers appear on the Register of Approved Training Providers (RoATP). Check the scope of their offering, and the background of the trainers to assess quality.