What is the Accelerator?
The Accelerator is a capability-building programme for people working in analytical roles in the public sector. This project based mentoring programme offers an opportunity to develop data science and/or data visualisation skills. Originally delivered by the Government Data Science Partnership, a collaboration between the Government Digital Service (GDS) and Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Accelerator is now exclusively delivered by the ONS Data Science Campus.
The programme first launched in 2015, since when around 400 people from over 100 organisations have graduated. Each programme runs for 12 weeks. during which time the mentee will work on a project of their own choosing. Mentees are matched up with a suitable mentor on a one-to-one basis.
1. Who is it for?
Mentees are generally analysts, or working in an analytical role, wishing to develop data science or data visualisation skills. They must have permission from both their line manager and head of profession to take part and be able to commit one day a week for the duration of the programme. The application process for mentees is a competitive one and requires them to submit a work-based project, outlining their proposed approach and aims of the project.
The Data Science Accelerator programme is entry level, for aspiring data scientists and others with an interest in developing data science skills. It is aimed at experienced analysts, preferably with some knowledge of coding but without, or with very limited, previous data science experience. Some of the techniques participants will require support with are machine learning, NLP and geospatial analysis, amongst others.
The Data Visualisation Accelerator is aimed at analysts looking to learn or develop data visualisation skills and techniques. The programme gives them the opportunity to experiment with different visualisation techniques (e.g. static, geospatial, interactive visualisations) and open-source software.
|Thursday 02 May 2024
|Thursday 18 July 2024
Mentor expressions of interest for the above programme need to be received no later than Friday 16 February 2024.
2. What are we looking for from mentors?
Why we need more mentors
The Accelerator programme relies on volunteer mentors to provide technical expertise, support and encouragement to mentees. Put simply, without mentors the programme would not survive. We are fortunate to have many experienced mentors who return year on year, but we are always looking to increase numbers and welcome new mentors to the programme.
Mentors are expected to commit at least 3 hours a week during the 12 week programme. We expect mentors to be working in a data science role within the public sector (HEO level position or higher) and have experience of working on data-driven projects. As with mentees, they must have permission from their line manager to take part. Coding experience in at least one programming language is a must. Further information on the requirements and role of mentoring on the Accelerator can be found below:
3. What benefits do mentors get from the programme ?
There are many benefits to mentoring to the individual’s career and to their organisation. Leadership skills are important to career progression, but if you don’t line manage in your day-to-day role this can be difficult to demonstrate. The Accelerator gives mentors an opportunity to develop the skills and confidence of others which in turn helps the mentor themselves to grow and learn.
As a mentor on the Accelerator you will gain new perspectives and collaborations, working with people from different organisations and disciplines. Mentoring can provide a welcome break from the day job, opening doors to new projects and new ways of working. Helping others is always rewarding and picking up some new skills and techniques yourself is a bonus.
Hear from some of our regular mentors:
I started as a mentor to pay it forward – when I was a student, I had one amazing mentor who had a great impact on both my career and wellbeing. I wanted to help other people experience something similar, with the added bonus of continued learning for myself, both in terms of technical and soft skills. I’ve mentored in several places, include the Data Viz accelerator, and the support for mentors here is the best I’ve ever had. It’s a really nice community, and it’s been an amazing, different, journey with each of my 5 mentees so far.
Natalie Nelissen (Department for Work and Pensions)
Having previously joined the programme as a mentee, I thoroughly enjoyed coming back to mentor on the Accelerator programme and support other analysts . My experiences have pushed me out of my comfort zone to apply my knowledge of machine learning and analysis to completely new subjects from across government, which has been really enjoyable and helped me become a better problem solver in my own work. I really valued teaching others new skills and learnt a lot of new techniques from my mentees in the process. I would thoroughly recommend the programme and the value of mentoring others to not only build their technical skills, but your own as well.
Becky Trippier (Natural England)
It was great to be able to support a colleague in a different organisation, refreshing some of the skills and knowledge that I hadn’t had to explain in a while, and learning from them as they developed new skills and gave me an insight into a different work context. Overall a very rewarding experience that I would recommend to others.
Hugo Cosh (NHS Wales)
4. Support for new mentors
Those new to mentoring will be invited to attend an online Mentoring Workshop and given access to resources such as a mentor handbook. The Accelerator team are always on hand to advise and support and will be happy to facilitate drop-in sessions if required.
During the programme, mentors will be invited to join their mentees for project update sessions as well as induction and graduation events. These events, along with a dedicated Slack channel, provide ample opportunities to learn and collaborate with more experienced mentors.
5. Applying to be a mentor
Further information, including criteria and commitment, can be found in our guides,
6. Further Testimonials
I know how challenging self-led learning can be, having only started coding and doing data science in my early 30s. So, the Data Science Accelerator offered me to opportunity to support others starting out (pair programming, sign-posting etc), learn about new applications of data science around government, and build my confidence as a data science professional. I’ve mentored on the Data Science Accelerator programme twice. Both mentees increased their technical skills and, as a result, the capability in their teams/government departments. One mentee was promoted to a Data Scientist role. It is very rewarding to be part of their career progression
Rachel Keay (UKHO)
I have mentored on the Data Science Accelerator on and off since the second year of the programme in 2017. It’s a fantastic opportunity for budding data scientists to cut their teeth on a real project. As a mentor, it’s a chance to work on techniques and problems that I don’t have time to use but know a lot about or to share deep expertise and analytical experience and support somebody else to build their skills in a topic and think about a problem in different ways. Either way, it’s a great opportunity to learn. Over the years I’ve mentored projects about image recognition from traffic cameras, object detection from satellites, outcome modelling in mental health and social care, organisational performance and global warming and detecting clusters of crimes on a transport network. In every case, I learned something new myself and got to work with some fantastic and enthusiastic analysts. Have a go, you won’t regret it!
Martin Ralphs (ONS)
The Data Science Accelerator is a fantastic capability building programme where individuals are paired up with experienced Data Scientists to support and guide them as they start to learn and apply new techniques to a real business project. As a mentor I’ve supported many individuals across many government departments and other public sector bodies including the NHS, Police and local government which has broadened my knowledge of the challenges our colleagues face and how AI can help. The people I’ve supported range from those early on in their careers to established experts in their own domain, all have been eager to learn. Getting the individual and project to the best possible place in the time available is incredibly rewarding and I’ve always increased my own understanding of techniques as I’m applying them to different data and business problems.
Mike Hudgell (Ordnance Survey)
Mentoring on the data science accelerator programme is a fantastic opportunity to help develop data scientists overcome a real world problem in public sector analysis. Your knowledge will be invaluable in helping an individual and their team build a solution that adds value for the public good. You can expect to put your coaching skills into practice and to learn about how data science is being used in other departments.
Rich Leyshon (ONS)