Digdata, a recently launched educational initiative, has announced a partnership with Facebook to develop virtual challenges designed to develop young people’s data skills and encourage them to pursue careers in data science.
The Digdata Facebook live online career challenge will pose the question, “Can Facebook and Instagram help online retailers increase success?” and will ask participants to use a dataset provided by Facebook to try and answer this question.
Rachel Keane, chief data inspirer from Digdata creators the Data Inspiration Group, said: “We intend to dispel the myth that the data industry is not cool or creative. Data is used globally every day to make decisions that affects us all yet is not seen as a subject that receives specific teaching in schools, colleges and university, and is rarely mentioned as a future career.
“Digdata intends to inspire young minds on a path towards new exciting career opportunities in data that can combine their passion and interest, their natural personal skills and curriculum-based learning, while offering continuous professional development.”
There are many reasons suggested for why young people don’t choose careers in tech or data science, including, but not limited to, a lack of visible role models like them in the industry, and a lack of understanding about what these careers involve, or what they need to do to reach their career goals.
The aim of the Digdata programme is not only to give young people insight into how data might be used in solving business problems, but also to change some of the misconceptions people have about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers, the types of people who work in them, and the skills needed to be part of the sector.
The programme currently works with just over 200 schools and 40 universities in the UK, and has different levels of access depending on the school year of the participants – First Step for years 7 to 9 at secondary school, Next Step for years 10 to 13 at secondary school or sixth form, and Step Up for university students.
For each level, participants will work with partner organisations, such as Facebook, taking part in virtual work experience and using data to solve problems.
As well as providing challenges for students to test their understanding of both the technical and soft skills needed to take part in a data career, Digdata offers online resources for students, teachers and parents to help them understand what is involved in a data science career across a number of different industries where a data scientist might work.
Digdata partners, such as Facebook, will host a briefing event for participants on Microsoft Teams to outline the challenge they will be using data to tackle, what they want the outcome to be, and the dataset the participants will be using, following up afterwards with resources including hints on how they might tackle the problems faced.
After a week to 10 days, participants send their projects back in whatever form they like, and will receive a video from the Digdata partner describing several of the ways the data could have been used, as well as a certificate of participation.
Keane said a lot of those who choose to take part in Digdata challenges are likely to be “STEM-based students”, but the soft skills involved in the challenges presented are just as important. She also claimed employers are increasingly more willing to teach new starters some of the more technical skills for a role as long as candidates already have some of the skills needed when they join a firm.
Keane also pointed out the UK’s skills shortage and increased demand for talent is juxtaposed with many students not being aware of what skills are needed for particular careers, and argues that people in secondary school, who are beginning to make decisions about what subjects they will be studying at GCSE and in the future, should be “made aware” of which skills are going to be most helpful in potential future roles.
This includes soft skills such as storytelling, listening, and creativity, as well as technical skills.
Registration is now open for the Digdata Facebook online career challenge, with the first event taking place on 7 October 2021.
Roger Taylor, chair of the government-backed Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, said: “Every young person should be given a chance to understand the varied world of work and the opportunities open to them after education. Enabling them to hear directly from employers about the challenges they face and the skills they are looking for is a great way to inspire and encourage students to learn and develop. I am delighted that Digdata are bringing such energy to making this happen in the world of digital and data – technologies that will do so much to shape our future.”