The data science graduate programme: past, present and future

In this blog our Programme Officer managing the Graduate Programme, Laura Clarke, gives an update on our sought after Graduate Programme.  

A bit of background 

Data, analysis, and data science is essential in answering some of the biggest policy questions in Government and beyond. The Graduate Programme creates a talent pipeline for people with these skills to join and flourish in the public sector. 

Our two-year graduate programme is equipping graduates with the knowledge and skills needed to deliver crucial insight from a range of data sources. We are supporting individuals across the public sector to gain the capacity to develop and use data products for the public good. In the first year, our graduates complete a training curriculum in year one, with three protected learning days per month and working on projects in their home organisation the rest of the time. In year two, graduates are exposed to a professional development learning programme to develop the core civil service data science competencies.

The programme launched in 2020, and individuals from the first cohort are now securing highly competitive data science jobs within the civil service.

Delivering this year’s programme

Our most recent graduates started in October 2021 and have now completed the first year learning modules. This is the first time we have welcomed participants outside the ONS including various government departments and covering existing civil servants and new hires recruited specifically to join the programme.  

Feedback has been very positive with learners impressed with the foundations they are developing right from the start:  

The curriculum not only teaches you the application of Data Science techniques but it first gives you a good grounding in the fundamentals of writing good code. You are equipped to create reproducible code, using best practice, and using version control. […] the programme gives you an opportunity to work for some exciting organisations. I have had the opportunity to work at HM Treasury’s new office in Darlington, which has been an amazing experience so far.” says Lilly Taylor.  

To hear more of Lilly’s thoughts on the programme please watch below: 

Graduates are applying this learning straight into the projects in their organisations: 

“Although I had previously worked in R, I had little previous experience with the Python language when I joined the programme.  Now, I analyse data using Python every day and have been doing this since my second or third week in the role. The curriculum has helped me to improve efficiency of my code, to produce clearer and more informative visualisations and to apply more complex modelling techniques in the projects I am working on.” says Melissa Bui from the Data Science Campus. 

A recent survey has helped us understand the needs of our current graduates and the difference in knowledge between the newly recruited participants and the existing staff taking part in the programme. Graduates agreed that the earlier modules, such as Designing Effective Workflows, Statistics and Visualisation, and Reproducible Code and Best Practice, were particularly useful in improving their coding capabilities, as they provided useful information on best practice and collaboration.

The success of a graduate Coding Club means we will incorporate it into the programme’s main three days of training to allow as many graduates as possible to attend.  

The mid-point survey focused on improving the accessibility of the programme as we always want to ensure we are being as inclusive as we possibly can with the content we create and how we deliver it. 

Looking ahead

The programme has gone from strength to strength over the last three years. From six graduates within the Office for National Statistics (ONS), to 50 across government and the public sector last year, to 170 places filled for the 2022 cohort starting in September 2022! Some of our new stakeholders include the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), Cabinet Office, NHS Wales, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Tower Hamlets Council.

We could not be carrying out the programme without our campus teams, Human Resources (HR) colleagues and stakeholders across government who have been supporting the recruitment and delivery of the programme.

For the 2022 cohort of the graduate programme, we offered 170 places to stakeholders and received over 900 applications for the 55 places offered externally through 31 different organisations across government and the public sector. Of these, 200 were sifted and invited to interviews, which took place throughout June 2022.

Unbelievably, we have received nearly 2,000 applications to the programme since it began. The word is spreading, and demand continues to grow. Keep an eye out for our communications on applications for next year’s programme if you are interested in partaking as a home organisation or a participant on the programme!