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AI Apprenticeship Academy launched by Cambridge Spark

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Cambridge Spark has launched the AI Apprenticeships (L7) Academy to tackle the nationwide shortage of data scientists and machine learning engineers.

The BBC is one of the first employers to sign up to the academy, which is funded by the Apprenticeship Levy.

Dr Raoul-Gabriel Urma, CEO of Cambridge Spark. Picture: Keith Heppell
Dr Raoul-Gabriel Urma, CEO of Cambridge Spark. Picture: Keith Heppell

It uses the new AI data specialists apprenticeship standard, from which learners can get a level 7 qualification, equivalent to a masters.

Dr Raoul-Gabriel Urma, CEO and founder of Cambridge Spark, said: “We know from our work with industry-leading clients on their digital transformation strategy that these two roles, data scientist and machine learning engineer, are a challenge to hire for in a competitive talent market. The need for technical skills has only become more crucial with the impact of Covid-19.

“To meet this challenge, we have developed a government-funded solution to upskill their existing workforce. The academy will be delivered virtually using EDUKATE.AI, our proprietary learning platform for data science and AI education supported by Innovate UK. This flexible method of delivery allows workforces across the country to learn remotely and effectively.”

Those choosing the machine learning engineer path will be undertaking the first course specifically designed for the role in the UK.

The two apprenticeships will be delivered over 15 months, followed by up to three months where learners will complete final end point assessments with the British Computer Society (BCS).

One of the first employers to sign up to the Academy is the BBC, having led the Trailblazer group which developed the new standard.

The first employees from the BBC and three other businesses will start work on their apprenticeships in October 2020, and enrolment for the remaining places is now open.

Huw Davies, senior early careers portfolio manager at the BBC, said: “I have been working with Cambridge Spark on the development of this standard and have valued their contribution in supporting organisations such as ours in the design of apprenticeships that for us shall be dual purpose and offer a professional entry-level pathway for graduates and also offer an authentic route for our existing staff who require a significant injection of applied and practical knowledge and skills training in machine learning as it becomes a bigger and bigger part of our organisation.

The Cambridge Spark team. Picture: Andrew Wilkinson
The Cambridge Spark team. Picture: Andrew Wilkinson

“The 18-month apprenticeship will allow us to bridge a skills gap in our mid to senior engineering teams as the pace of change has been significant across the domain of data science, ML and AI.

“The BBC as a public service organisation, we need to ensure that we are knowledgeable and lead on data science for our sector, working safely and securely.

“I’m truly excited to be offering this scheme to new and existing staff and working in partnership with Cambridge Spark, employers and UK universities to develop a centre of excellence surrounding data science apprenticeships.”

Dr Urma added: “Now more than ever, it is crucial that businesses invest in their employees to future-proof the skillset of their workforce

“Combined with our existing Data Analyst Academy, we now offer a learning pathway for businesses to take their employees from novice through to specialists in the key areas of data science, AI and machine learning.”

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