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Marks & Spencer is Investing in a Digital Future With Its New Data Academy

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By Published On: August 15, 20180 Comments

The major multinational retailer is collaborating with Decoded to upskill its employees in data science, committing to a strong digital business.

London-based multinational Marks & Spencer recently announced a data skills initiative designed to transform the company into a Digital-First retailer.

Partnering with technology education provider Decoded, M&S will create a Data Fellowship program to upskill staff across various departments: management, merchandising, buying, and finance. The company says its goal is to “create a new raft of data skilled leaders to lead digital transformation across the business”, the latest step in an M&S initiative “to place digital at the heart of its business”.

M&S Chief Executive Steve Rowe calls the Data Academy a “digital investment in our people”, and the biggest to date. “We need to change their digital behaviours, mindsets and our culture to make the business fit for the digital age and our partnership with Decoded will enable us to do this.”

The program will train over 1,000 staff through an 18-month, in-work skills program. Participants will study technologies such as data analytics tools and machine learning, and finish the course with a Data Analytics qualification accredited by the British Computing Society. A Data Leadership program will provide additional training; according to the company, this will enable the leadership team “to get hands-on with technology such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to become the most data-literate leadership team in retail.”

This will be the world’s first Data Academy in retail. Yet it’s also part of a larger trend, in which organisations established outside the e-commerce sphere are rolling out tech-based initiatives to increase their digital offerings. Australia Post, for example, recently announced a Tech Academy that will develop its digital capabilities and provide potential staff with tech training. With knowledge of data science becoming increasingly valuable in retail and e-commerce, these upskilling projects will probably be the first of many.

“Education is the answer to The Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Kathryn Parsons, Founder of Decoded. “We are proud to be working with one of the UK’s most iconic brands in retail and excited to be putting data literacy and skills in the hands of over 1,000 people. This is a pioneering and inspiring commitment to lifelong learning and future-facing skills. Every leader in business today should take note.”

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