Graduate Induction Week

In 2021, our highly successful Data Science Graduate Programme has been expanded across the UK pubic sector. We have offered 50 places on the programme, located in 10 public sector organisations. 25 places were offered to new graduates, selected from 511 applications. An additional 25 places have also been offered to 25 analysts already in posts, who want to significantly increase their data science skills.

The progamme was first initiated in 2019 when we recruited graduate data scientists into the Campus to work on research projects.

Due to its success this continued for 2020 with graduates having a significant impact at the Campus and across Government, including Number 10 and HM Treasury. They worked on urgent requests during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and longer-term research ranging from detecting trucks from satellites with machine learning, to exploring insights into mobility using Facebook data.

Over the course of a year on the programme, graduates complete a formal curriculum created by the Data Science Campus Faculty and Analysis Function, which includes protected learning sessions three days per month. Curriculum topics range from reproducible programming practices and machine learning, to distributed computing and natural language processing.

The demand for data science skills across government is continuing to grow. We are helping to meet this demand by developing early talent in data science, by both bringing in new graduates and training  up experienced analysts.

The organisations involved are:

  • the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – across a range of business areas
  • HM Treasury
  • Royal Air Force (RAF)
  • Home Office
  • HM Land Registry
  • Gwynedd Council
  • Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL)
  • Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)
  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • Welsh Government

To celebrate the beginning of this new expanded cohort in October 2021, we ran an online induction event bringing together all participants from diverse backgrounds to introduce the programme, build relationships, and enthuse colleagues about data science.

Three-day induction event

The induction marked the beginning of the cohort and celebrated the significant work that had taken place across the Data Science Campus to scale up the programme.

Some highlights of the sessions were the keynote speakers, including:

  • Sir Ian Diamond – National Statistician, ONS
  • Alison Pritchard – Deputy National Statistician Data Capability, ONS
  • Tom Smith – Director, Data Science Campus
  • Anna Kwiatkowska – Deputy Director for Data Science, HMRC

Senior leaders highlighted what an exciting time it is for data science in the public sector, as more data is used to make decisions and inform public debate. They spoke about their experience in data, work throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and gave advice to the graduates. They also encouraged the participants to be curious and highlighted the opportunity they have to develop. The participants attended a question and answer session with the National and Deputy National Statisticians, asking them their opinions. Questions ranged from career experience, ethical uses of data and working with ministers.

The induction week was structured to encourage participants to network and get to know one another, with informal discussions taking place alongside group work on a hackathon tackling council expenditure from open data.

Colleagues in the Campus led sessions on inclusion – a core value of the programme. They also delivered sessions bringing participant well-being and reflection front and centre of the programme. It was important for the faculty team to set the tone of the programme from the beginning, fostering the best environment for everyone to get the most out of future training sessions.

The talks from senior leaders showed the importance of the programme in the data capability development across government. Practical elements of the programme were shared with the participants too, laying out the communication channels that will be used, the content of the curriculum and available support.

Starting the curriculum

With the induction event completed, we now move on to starting the curriculum and onboarding of participants. This month, many of the participants will have joined their new organisations, settling into their way of working and preparing to work on their first projects. The first curriculum module, Data Science Foundations, has been delivered, offering a grounding in data science principles through a mix of lecturer-facilitated sessions and independent study.

Feedback from the induction helped us to understand the participants’ needs and preferences. When asked what they found most useful, the participants responded with a range of different favourite sessions, suggesting that the event catered for their diverse needs and interests.

Programme participant Jake Marshall said:

“… I’ve never had a more engaging induction with no dead space or period without interesting tasks, speakers and group work to get us prepared for the year ahead! … I surmise that if the induction was that good, I can only imagine how good the curriculum and projects will be!”

Daniel Suarez-Mash said:

“… Loved it and can honestly say it was better than any other type of induction I’ve had before. It ran like clockwork and I’ve never got to know so many people online in such a great environment with really fun activities (thanks Laura Clarke!). Looking forward to the rest of the programme.”

We are really excited for both the new recruits and those upskilling in data science, and for what they will learn from each other. We are looking forward to working closely with them to develop their skills and see the impact they make in their business areas.

From a practical standpoint, we learned a lot about useful tools for online events and training, the value of co-ordinating our planning practicing delivery, and managing responsibility across several complex sessions and events.

The induction highlighted to us the breadth of experience and backgrounds of participants on this programme and gave us some great insights for how to best deliver the curriculum.