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Developing future talent – Anumana Code Academy

Data leaders are creating academies and programmes to reach young students to remove the barriers to entry for data careers and improve diversity in future talent pipelines.

What is the Anumana Coding Academy? 

The primary aim of the ACA, based in Manchester, UK, is to provide a platform for positive societal change through data by giving young people (aged 14-16) tutelage with coding skills, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This will give young people an earlier insight into the world of data as well as being a solution to the increasing technical skills gap. Furthermore, the work is being carried out in collaboration with local schools and universities, where the degree-level data students work with the school-aged students to introduce them to the world of data.  

The ACA programme is formed of two eight-week programmes delivered in the autumn term and in the spring term. The materials within the course are certified by established companies to add credence to the programme and a certification of completion is awarded to both the school students and the university students. It is hoped that having the business backing of this course, the certification and skills learnt will enable graduates to enter different data and analytical business sectors. 

“The workforce of tomorrow is going to look very different to the one that we have today, but there is still a lack of skills coming through,” said Patel. “The vision for ACA is to have 1,000 disadvantaged children taught Python each year in Greater Manchester, and then expand further afield.” 

Python is the most popular programming language in the world, having increased in popularity by 400% since 2012, and it is used extensively by global businesses, including world-class names such as Netflix, Dropbox, Meta, Amazon, intel, NASA, eBay, Spotify and Google. 

ACA has been working with the University of Manchester to recruit an initial cohort of ten students that can support the programme through volunteering. In the future, this will give ACA the ability to reach multiple different schools across the country as volunteers may want to connect with the school they personally attended. It is hoped that this initial group of ten volunteers will be expanded in future years. Volunteers are reimbursed for expenses. 

All decision making for ACA has been around creating positive, lasting change for the community. “Often, businesses pay lip service to CSR policies and procedures and offering a day a year to employees to do ad hoc volunteer work just is not enough – you can’t do enough long-lasting good in just one day,” said Patel. “There are a lot of individuals out there who give far more than just one day, but businesses can create more capacity to give back and benefit society, as well as their own industry niche without sacrificing profits or other business goals.” 

Finally, Anumana is the Sanskrit word for inference. This word was chosen as the essence of analytics is that past truths are used to formulate a new truth. 

Addressing the skills gap and more 

As we enter the New Year, the skills gap for data needs in the UK continue to grow with no quick fix available. Through projects such as ACA, it is hoped that the skills gap will be addressed through an emerging talent pipeline, but this will take multiple years to come to fruition. Not only will the skills gap be addressed, but by focusing on underrepresented groups, the diversity issues that also plague the data world will improve.  

“Simply, there are not enough high-quality individuals to fill the needs of the industry when it comes to technical roles,” said Patel. “Additionally, diversity within the technical community is poor – predominantly from a gender diversity perspective, but from an ethnic diversity perspective as well.”  

One recent study has shown that UK companies are recruiting for up to 234,000 roles requiring hard data skills, highlighting the huge skills gap that needs filling. Nearly half of the businesses (48%) require hard data skills and 46% have struggled to recruit for these roles over the last two years.  

Furthermore, Patel believes that another problem will soon be raising its head: a pay-to-win system.  

“Tech roles are so sought after by businesses that salaries are continuously increasing, but there are barriers to entry which is fuelling the skills gap and diversity problems,” said Patel. “Ultimately, what businesses are doing now is approaching the best talent pool within the analysis community. To get into those roles, candidates need one or two STEM qualifications, and it is rapidly becoming the case that masters or PhD qualifications are also needed. This in turn is driving paid-for data science qualifications, which is further driving a wedge into the accessibility of data and analysis careers. Through ACA and other programmes, we are working to make sure people can access data careers based on their skills, passion and desires.”  

Diversification is desperately needed within the data and analytics industries as they lag behind the national average. The 2011 census stated that 20% of people in the UK are BAME, while only 15.2% of tech workers are BAME. Additionally, 50% of workers are women, but only 26% of tech workers are women. It is hoped that ACA can address this by encouraging underrepresented groups to consider a career in data and provide access to courses and businesses that may have otherwise been missed.  

Sponsorship opportunities are available to businesses that would like to take part in helping achieve the goals of ACA, which includes connections to local schools and universities that can provide direct access to new talent. Furthermore, it can advance CSR agendas and has been shown to improve staff morale and buy-in.  

Contact Hemant Patel directly at hpatel@anumana.co.uk to get involved. 

Visit www.anumana.co.uk  

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