Digital Transformation » Big Data » Launching the next generation of data experts

BLENHEIM CHALCOT, the UK’s leading venture builder, is transforming its data capability – and using the apprenticeship levy to do it.

We have a problem: the amount of data produced grows every year, but the pool that can confidently use it does not. In fact, the European Commission has warned of a data skills crisis ahead, estimating that 346,000 more data scientists are needed by 2020. The implication for businesses is significant – data-driven strategy and decision-making is proven to have a powerful impact on the bottom line.

As the UK’s leading venture builder, Blenheim Chalcot is acutely aware of the challenge – and the importance of getting it right. CEO Kate Newhouse says: “At a time when the business world is deeply concerned about the talent pipeline, Blenheim Chalcot is committed to nurturing the next generation of innovators and disruptors.”

But how do you achieve that at scale?

Creating data-driven opportunities

Blenheim Chalcot is facing this challenge head-on by rolling out a comprehensive data capability programme across its portfolio companies.

They have become an early adopter of a multi-faceted Data Academy program powered by digital learning disruptor AVADO, which promises to revolutionise data capability across all levels of an organisation.

Importantly, many program components are funded by the apprenticeship levy* in the UK – making them free to levy paying companies and 90% funded for all other businesses.

Through the Data Academy, Blenheim Chalcot is adopting a twin-pronged approach to embedding data expertise. Up to 100 existing employees will enrol on a Commercial Data Analyst program which trains employees from a wide range of roles to become more commercially-minded, helping them to crack real business problems using data and deliver bottom-line impact.

Additionally, over 10 maths and computer science graduates have been cherry-picked from the UK’s top universities to join a specialist ‘Business Ready’ Data Science graduate program.  This program will deepen their technical and data capabilities while adding vital strategic, commercial, entrepreneurship and change management skills.

The graduates will gain immediate real-world, commercial, data science experience by working hands-on from day one in one of the rapidly growing technology businesses within Blenheim Chalcot’s portfolio. A further 20 graduates are expected to follow next year.

“The Data Science Graduate Programme is a significant element in our strategy to capitalise on the opportunities that are out there for our ventures,” says Kate Newhouse, “and we have big ambitions for expanding this in future. Data Science is the key to continually unlocking innovative solutions that revolutionise, transform, and disrupt industries”

Data disruption at scale

The data-skills challenge is top of the agenda for many major employers and AVADO’s Data Academy program is generating strong interest. The flexible offering includes foundational bite-sized mobile learning, face-to-face senior ‘data boot camps’, a flagship Data Analyst programme and a ‘Business Ready’ Data Science Masters (MSc) course to help make data scientists more commercially-savvy. Many components can be funded by the apprenticeship levy* in the UK.

Combined, AVADO’s programs aim to drive organisation-wide cultural change, with an emphasis on practical applicability to deliver rapid commercial benefit.

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England has commented, “Data is the new oil” and, of course, the opportunity is huge – according to Forrester, for a typical Fortune 1000 company, just a 10% increase in data accessibility will result in more than $65 million additional net income. It’s a statistic which is not lost on Blenheim Chalcot. With eyes on the data prize, they are future-proofing their businesses – and through the levy, they’re doing it at a snip of the cost.

*The Apprenticeship Levy is an additional payroll tax, set at 0.5% of an employer’s annual pay bill above £3m, collected through PAYE. Employers can only spend this money on approved apprenticeship programs and the government will subsidise any overspend beyond the levy by 90%. Employers with an annual pay bill below £3m also have the cost of apprenticeships subsidised by 90%. This means employers can purchase a £20,000 training programme for £2,000.