The power of collaboration: Opportunities for educators and industry to work together in building data skills

Supporting education programmes is one of the core reasons that the Bright Initiative was established, with the social need to develop people’s understanding of the power of data sitting alongside the commercial need to nurture the data professionals of the future. That’s why we are delighted to work with education institutions and groups around the world and recently took part in a webinar on skills organised by the UK’s CollabGroup.

CollabGroup represents leading Further Education colleges in the UK – institutions that focus on vocational education and training to give people the skills they need to make a mark with employers. With data skills high up the UK Government’s agenda thanks to the National Data Strategy (NDS), the event was an opportunity for our CEO, Or Lenchner, to offer first-hand insight into industry priorities that colleges need to be preparing students for. Alongside Or, Sandy Grom, a senior official from the UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS), spoke about some of the steps that the UK Government are taking to map and respond to data skills gaps, introducing the Data Skills Portal – a new tool for measuring organizational data readiness in SMEs, accessing executive data skills training, and providing insight into policy, projects and case studies related to data skills in the U.K.

Their opening presentations made the need for data skills very clear. For example, Sandy cited research showing that almost half of businesses were trying to recruit people with hard data skills but struggling to do so. Or meanwhile explained how the internet is the largest database in the history of mankind, an open resource that organizations of all kinds can benefit from, but only if they have people able to capture and utilize such big data.

The two discussed these issues with senior leaders from CollabGroup colleges, chaired by the Group’s Chief Executive Ian Pretty. It quickly became clear that there are a number of major issues that need to be tackled. These include how the lack of awareness many people have about careers in data hampers them from seeking out relevant learning opportunities; the need to ensure that courses and curricula meet industry needs; and the challenge of attracting people with the strongest grasp of data skills to become educators – particularly given the tech industry’s ability to pay much higher salaries than most education institutions.

The group considered practical steps that could be taken in the face of these challenges. These included efforts to more effectively promote public understanding of the role data plays in society and the economy – and the career possibilities it presents; the value of a strong, ongoing dialogue between educators and industry; and the value to industry in contributing to education programs, including making skilled staff time available to teach and share insight with students.

The event itself was a perfect example of the value in industry collaborating with education institutions and a useful contribution to the ‘unlocking the power of data for everyone, everywhere workstream of the National Data Strategy. The Bright Initiative was delighted to take part and looks forward to helping to take the ideas it generated forward as we continue on our mission of support for data-education programs.