How are we building data analytical skills locally and internationally?

Hello! My name is Solange and I am one of the Academic Managers for the Data Science Campus.

Since joining the team in September last year, I have been working with colleagues in the Government Statistical Services (GSS) Professional Support branch, Learning Academy and academic partners to design and implement initiatives that are increasing Data Science capability across ONS and wider government.

Having a high-skilled workforce in Data Science across government is one of our commitments to ensure we can better inform policy-makers with informative analyses based on traditional and innovative data sources. Building strong partnerships with academic institutions play a key role in this process –- we have signed memoranda of understanding with several universities to facilitate their engagement in our research and capability strategy.

I find this work really exciting, not only because I get to draw on my experience as Southampton University’s Director of the MSc Programme in Official Statistics, but because I can see the real opportunities we are offering people to build new skills and even a new career.

For example, we have been working collaboratively to develop a high-end Apprenticeship Programme in Data Analytics. This is a 2-year vocational qualification leading to a Level 4 Diploma (equivalent to a first year degree in Data Science). The programme consists of 9 modules delivered bi-weekly by external partners covering topics on professionalism, programming skills in R and Python, Statistics and Data Science.

Our first 8 students joined last November and have really hit the ground running, taking on research projects under the guidance of our data scientists. To complement the formal training, we organise regular activities across ONS to ensure they are exposed to key steps of production of official statistics – from data collection to dissemination of results. This allows them to familiarise themselves with our challenges and be in a better position to apply their skills to improve our processes.

In addition to the apprenticeship programme we have devised the new MSc in Data Analytics for Government. This is another innovative initiative which brings together a number of ONS teams to design a more flexible MSc programme across the UK. It combines modules on Survey Methods and Data Science to equip our workforce with a key set of skills required from a modern government data analyst. Last year we funded 7 individuals to go to Data Science MSc programmes in several universities and have plans to fund some more. So watch this space!

We are also engaged in planning and delivering short courses across ONS and GSS, mentoring MSc and PhD students and organising the Campus presence in several conferences (for example, the GDS Data Science Conference, the 22nd GSS Methodology Symposium and the World Statistics Congress in Marrakech).

We are also committed to support international development in Data Science in collaboration with the ONS International Development branch. I will be visiting the Rwandan National Statistical Institute from 25 to 29 March to advise on their Data Science capability strategy and establish collaborative projects. Again my experience working for the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics has been a great platform for me to work from.

These are exciting times for us and we welcome your feedback to help us to shape our capability strategy. Would you like to know more about our projects or how you can get involved? Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

We look forward to hearing from you!