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Rewind to 2018 and I was enjoying working as a deputy store manager at our busy Fosse Park store in Leicestershire. I remember at the time hearing lots about data and its role in the future of M&S, particularly around informing decision-making across the business, and was intrigued how this would stretch to store colleagues too. 

So, when M&S launched an in-house data apprenticeship – the M&S Data Analyst Fellowship - I saw the opportunity to expand my horizons and see what all the fuss was about.

From Data Novice to ‘Data Fellow’…

After being successful in my application to join the 18-month course (all learners have to formally apply, with applications judged by an internal panel) I joined 30 colleagues in the 'Beta' cohort. There were colleagues from across the entire M&S organisation – a mixture from our support centres and stores too.

Within no time, we were getting into the nuts and bolts of fundamental data analytics tools like Python & SQL, as well as the core principles of data analysis - which I really enjoyed.

From ‘Data Fellow’ to Data Champion

As well as the ability to interpret, manipulate and analyse data, the course gave me a real passion for data as a whole - so after completing the apprenticeship and gaining my qualification in Data Analytics, I knew I wanted to seize the opportunity to pursue a career in data.

I secured a role in our Data Strategy team, working to design and deliver a wider data education curriculum for colleagues - and I have since been promoted to BEAM Academy Manager. Our BEAM Academy is the brand-new proposition established to accelerate the growth of data literacy for all colleagues at M&S. As part of this, in November we launched another data apprenticeship - the Data Technician Fellowship - which is slightly less advanced than the Analyst Fellowship and is helping us to enable and empower a wider range of colleagues through data literacy.

It's my job to champion these opportunities to colleagues and get as many people as possible interested in data and its capabilities. The campaigns and events we've set up - such as Digi Fest and Let's Talk Data Science month - are helping to achieve this; it's great we've been able to build up an engaged and enthusiastic D&D community of almost 1,000 colleagues. But we won't stop there. 

I want every colleague across the organisation to be as passionate about data as I am. And to do this, we need to make data literacy accessible for all – which is why we’ll continue to invest in education programmes like our data apprenticeships to encourage more colleagues to empower themselves through data and help drive the M&S transformation.

About the Data Analyst Fellowship

The Data Analyst Fellowship is a level 4 apprenticeship funded by the government’s Apprenticeship Levy and ran in conjunction with M&S training partner Decoded. Learners finish the programme with a Data Analytics qualification accredited by the British Computing Society. So far, over 200 colleagues have enjoyed the benefits of joining the Analyst programme, with the first 40 graduating last week.

About the Data Technician Fellowship

The Data Technician level 3 apprenticeship runs in conjunction with M&S training partner Babington and is less advanced than the level 4 Data Analyst Fellowship. Both courses last 18 months, with 15 months spent learning and 3 months dedicated to the end point assessment. Learners are expected to spend 5-8 hours studying and applying their skills every week.