Our voice of business this month is:

Professor Harin Sellahewa, Dean of Faculty of Computing, Law and Psychology, The University of Buckingham

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is fuelled by data – the new oil. Modern information age produces petabytes of data – Big Data – on a daily basis. Billions of messages posted on social media platforms, use of sensor networks to monitor large-scale physical infrastructures, machinery and farms, consumer spending behaviour, online shopping, Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs), and Internet of Things (IoT) are some examples that generate Big Data. Such data implicitly contain a rich insight that can be harnessed to create huge benefits as they enable smarter decision making.

Data Science has become a new and important discipline of science that has a wide range of applications. It includes solutions that handle big data from capturing, storing, processing, analysing data to visualising insights. These solutions can include data mining, machine learning, advanced analytics, data visualisation and in-database analytics.

Multinational corporations, businesses small and large, charities and government departments are using big data and digital technologies to transform the products and services they offer as well as their internal business processes. However, there is a massive skills gap, both nationally and globally, for highly skilled data scientists who can design and implement technological solutions to achieve strategic business objectives.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data science are crucial to ensuring the UK is at the forefront of technological revolution. At University of Buckingham we are at the heart of cutting-edge research in AI and data science. The School of Computing at Buckingham received a £1.6m Local Growth Fund Grant from the Buckinghamshire LEP to establish a Centre for Artificial Intelligence and an Innovation Hub. A key objective of the grant is to train the next generation of highly skilled graduates in AI, cyber security and immersive application development.

Over the past two years, we have successfully trained nearly fifty high-skilled data science apprentices to help combat the nation’s advanced digital skills shortage. Nearly forty more learners are currently being trained on the 18-month master’s level (Level 7) integrated degree apprenticeship programme, developed and offered by the School of Computing at Buckingham in partnership with Avado, the UK’s leading online learning and development provider. Up to 15 more are expected to join the programme in January 2022.

The master’s programme is aligned to the Level 7 Digital and Technology Solutions Specialist – Data Analytics Specialist (Integrated Degree). Successful learners receive the MSc Applied Data Science (Degree Apprenticeship) from Buckingham as well as the Level 7 Digital and Technology Solutions Specialist (Data Analytics Specialist) degree apprenticeship certificate from ESFA.

Buckingham’s MSc programme has eights modules including business and entrepreneurship, scripting using Python, machine learning, data visualisation, and leadership, all of which play a central role in data science. Learners gain an understanding of how to design and implement machine learning solutions to solve complex business challenges. The programme incorporates practical workshops with leading global businesses including IBM, Tableau, TigerGraph and Zizo. In the first cohort, 90% of learners achieved distinction on their MSc.

Integrated degree apprenticeships are an excellent route to upskills or reskills employees for businesses to transform. I would recommend Bucks businesses to find out more about how apprenticeships could benefit them.