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Data apprenticeships for building back greener

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With COP26 in full swing, Cambridge Spark is joining the ‘green tech’ debate by asking what companies can do to align their strategy towards ‘sustainability through innovation’, and how data apprenticeships can support climate action efforts while the country ‘builds back greener’.

The UK has a goal to end its contribution to climate change by achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. We need to make sure the right skills are in place for the future workforce to deliver the green technology shift the UK needs.

The country is committed to unlocking innovation in renewable energy and developing cutting-edge technology to transition us into a greener future.

The questions that companies are asking themselves are what kind of innovation will create a more sustainable future and how can we achieve it? Does our workforce have the skills, knowledge or capability to deliver sustainability through innovation? And if so, to what extent can data apprenticeships bridge the gap?

The demand for people with data science skills is growing and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find and keep people with this knowledge and experience. So, companies are taking a different approach. Businesses are retraining existing employees and technical teams. Data apprenticeships enable data science to be deployed by different teams across the organisation, providing new skills to workforces on the frontline of climate change.

Whether a company is working on low-carbon projects, creating efficiencies in logistics or manufacturing, it’s data that keeps them laser-focused on their challenges and will drive clear decision making. Regardless of your sustainability vision or ideas for a solution, large volumes of information relating to ‘how things are done now’ must be gathered and analysed for inefficiencies to be identified; for example relating to manufacturing waste, plastic usage or retail transport standards.

Through the support we provide at Cambridge Spark, our data apprentices are directing capability towards a green recovery from Covid which is having a meaningful impact on sustainability in the UK, and a positive effect on profit margins too.

Here are a few examples of some of our apprentices using data to help their organisation become more sustainable.

Apprentices from a London based biotechnology company are growing algae to produce carbon-neutral food. They are using the skills they learned on the level 4 data analyst apprenticeship to analyse the environmental factors affecting the growth of algae. Their ability to listen to nature so they can understand how it behaves is supported by improving their data analytics capability.

A large pharmaceutical company asked their data apprentices to work on a utility bills project. The insights from their data analysis identified opportunities to reduce leakages onsite and be more efficient with utilities consumption, therefore reducing costs and managing the impact on the environment. Going forward, this analysis will ensure they can plan ongoing sustainable options in the future.

Similarly, a technology start-up is benefitting from a level 7 data scientist apprenticeships to help their aerospace engineers apply AI and data science techniques to large data sets relating to the impact of weather conditions on aircraft engine exhausts. This is contributing to the overall mission of the company to identify and offset the environmental impact of flights.

To increase the sustainability impact our apprentices can make, Cambridge Spark is developing a ‘data science for sustainability' curriculum. Using Cambridge Spark’s data science learning platform, EDUKATE.AI, apprentices will work on assignments that simulate real-world sustainability challenges and use data science to tackle them. This will accelerate their sustainability journey and deepen the impact of it for themselves and their employers.

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