Data is often spoken of as the ‘new oil’ – the fuel for our economy in coming decades, and a source of competitiveness and prosperity. And like the first oil prospectors, organisations are tapping into this source, only to find it pouring out almost uncontrollably.

Individuals and their devices are already providing a rich stream of data. When the Internet of Things gets going, billions of new data streams will join them. But without the skills of the modern day oil engineers – the data analysts and information scientists – it’s just black stuff.

Data analysts are the people who can change this oil into gold – the breakthroughs that will deliver business value. They need to be multi-talented, with high-level technical skills, statistical and analytical competence, and the interpersonal attributes to champion their work within the organisation. Currently, these paragons are hard to find – nearly 90 per cent of employers in recent Tech Partnership research said they had skills gaps.

Ending this shortage needs a multifaceted approach. Employers will be upskilling their existing workforces, and looking to universities for appropriately qualified graduates. But what employers want most of all is people who understand analysis in the context of the business and its data environment – and increasingly, they are looking to apprenticeships to provide this.

Employers offering data apprenticeships are able to give their apprentices a high quality, rigorous academic and practical training, while immersing them in the business environment. The Tech Partnership’s Digital and Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeship includes a data analytics specialism at some universities, and culminates in the award of a BSc. Standards for a Tech Industry Gold Apprenticeship, which will give school leavers aged 18+ a good understanding of data structures, database systems, and the range of analytical tools, have also been developed. Subject to approval, the first apprentices will start in 2016 - a significant contribution to filling the skills gap, and to a vibrant and prosperous tech sector.

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