S2DS: Bridging the Gap Between Outdated Education and Employability

Traditional British Education has stagnated due to political games and false prophecies of change. In reality there is little difference between the content of education in the 1990s and what’s pushed in the classroom today. The syllabuses and approach are more suited to the First Industrial Revolution than the emerging Fourth. Don’t get me wrong, there have been changes, but they largely focus on policing and overworking teachers than developing students for modern society. As a result, students are bored and teachers burnt out. Many teachers are sick of taking part in this farce and are seeking a career change, including me!

Towards this aim, you’d think the wealth of skills built up through extensive education would be helpful, however, the economy and job-market are very different from the ones education prepares us for, as reflected in recent reports that highlight the skill gaps. These are gaps that education should fill, not ignore.

Gaps, Gaps, Gaps!

Firstly, there’s the skill gaps between primary & secondary school and further & higher education. This is a trend that continues between higher education and job market, as reported by the Edge Foundation earlier this year, followed by a summer bulletin which reported that tech skill shortages are costing the UK economy £63 Billion a year! In addition, the recruitment firm Robert Walters found that only 89% of UK companies are expecting a Tech skills shortage in the next 12 months. Even the Tech sector itself is struggling, with Tech City UK reporting that over 50% of Tech focused companies are facing shortages. while computing GCSE remains a fringe subject taken by only 11% of pupils and absent from 54% of schools! Clearly, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that these gaps need addressing.

Retraining for 21st Century Economy

Fortunately for our students, or anyone stuck in a career that they simply don’t enjoy or even one being replaced by Tech, there is hope! Our reliance on traditional education institutions is waning. Barriers to learning are breaking down and it’s more egalitarian than ever before. We no longer have to be confined to the career path our outdated education prescribes and are able to take new directions from the comfort of our screens.

For myself, the new direction is Data Science. In case you aren’t aware, Data Science is an emerging career that has been widely declared the sexiest job of the 21st century! While the exact definition is debatable, put simply, Data Science is the use of modern computers to analyse ‘Big Data’ sets, generating information and insights that human intellect cannot process. Data Science has many applications, powering new technologies and disruptive business models that are shaking up and changing the economy.

Eager to walk this new direction, since last year I have been expanding my technical skills, while applying for various roles; However, until recently I hadn’t had a single interview and at times I’ve worried that my efforts are in vain and that I will be confined to my current career path for life. I hadn’t realised how hard and enduring retraining would be. Recently, however, it would seem that my ‘luck’ is changing and interviews are starting to come in; my worries have faded and my confidence has grown. This is the result of spending my summer holiday on a competitive Data Science training programme called Science to Data Science (S2DS). S2DS trains analytical PhDs and MScs to become Data Scientists from a competitive global intake. During the intensive 5 week program, participants are taken on a journey that adapts analytical skills to commercial Data Science. The guides are experts and industry professionals and the context is a real commercial project for an external company.

How does S2DS Bridge the Skills Gap?

Essentially, S2DS facilitates little tweaks to a participant’s technical skill set, adapting it to the Data Science industry. Fortunately, Kim, one of the founders, is a PhD herself, while the second, Jason is a recruitment specialist. They make a powerful pair, fully aware of the skills we have and what we need, and as a result we learn a lot in a short time! Most importantly were the facets you can’t learn from a book or on traditional online courses, such as: Workflow in a commercial Data Science environment, gained through working with external companies; Strategies to approach Data Science problems, gained through technical mentors (Thanks Dani Maldonado); An appreciation of the value of research experience and the soft skills needed to excel. There were more but these three really stand out, as ultimately they increase a participants attractiveness and value in the jobs market.

Furthermore, S2DS, its participants, and the parent company that runs it, Pivigo, help businesses too. Partner companies range from the “data-driven”, with data science at their core, testing new ideas and recruiting the best talent, to the “data curious”, who have not yet adopted data science and would like to dip their toes into the data science water.

Closing Remarks

So, as we embark on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there’s a juxtaposition between traditional education and the wealth of new economic opportunities that are emerging, for both individuals and companies. With Brexit looming you can either watch it happen and fade or get on board and shine.

Data Science is just one new opportunity. If you are an individual doing an MSc/PhD, a company looking to increase your competitive advantage with Big Data, or even an established Data Science company, Pivigo and S2DS can help you. To find out more  visit the Pivigo and S2DS websites. If not there are a wealth of other opportunities out there and you no longer need worry that your formal education holds you back as it’s now easier than ever to develop specialised skills that satisfy market needs.