Marks & Spencer has teamed up with Decoded to create the world’s first Data Academy in retail; the launch is part of the retailer’s vision to transform itself into a digital-first organisation.
The M&S Data Academy will take staff members from every function in the business – from store managers and visual merchandisers to finance and buying – and create “a new raft of data skilled leaders to lead digital transformation across the business”.
In addition the M&S leadership team will embark on a Data Leadership programme, enabling them to “get hands-on” with technology such as machine learning and artificial intelligence with the aim of becoming the “most data-literate leadership team in retail”.
M&S staff will be offered the chance to enrol on The Data Fellowship, an 18 month in-work data science skills programme. Participants will learn to harness the most cutting-edge data analytics tools such as “R” and “Python” and adopt technologies such as machine learning. Learners will finish the programme with a Data Analytics qualification accredited by the British Computing Society.
The Data Fellowship is fully funded by the Apprenticeship Levy, the billion pound fund created by the Government to help upskill the UK workforce to be ready for the Future of Work.
“This is our biggest digital investment in our people to date and the creation of the M&S Data Academy will upskill colleagues and provide them with an in-depth level of digital literacy as well as a Data Analytics qualification,” said CEO Steve Rowe.
“Transformation of our business is key to survival and a huge part of this lies with our colleagues. 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,” Rowe added.
Decoded founder Liz Bacelar said the organisation was “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. Education is the answer to The Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
The move has been announced just a week after M&S announced a joint venture with Brent Hoberman and Henry Lane Fox’s start-up incubator and accelerator Founders Factory. M&S has become Founders Factory’s exclusive UK retail partner, and will invest in a number of start-ups, sourced through Founders Factory’s global network, in a move which will expose the retailer to new technologies, business models and entrepreneurial thinking.
Image: Adrian Brooks/Imagewise. Courtesy of Marks & Spencer