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New graduate programme praised by tech industry leaders

Sandra Busby

As the pandemic continues to hamper recruitment activities and risks a lost generation of talented graduates needed to aid Wales’ economic recovery, the CEO of Confused.com and technology strategists from Microsoft have praised the launch of a Fast-Track Data and AI Graduate Programme and its promise to develop Welsh talent pools that allow employers to fortify their businesses with the latest innovation.

The Fast-Track Data and AI Graduate Programme has been specifically designed by the Welsh Contact Centre Forum (WCCF) in collaboration with industry, to allow Welsh businesses to recruit new talents who can accelerate the development of new data driven services.

As lockdowns and social distancing measures continue, businesses in every sector are now pursuing new ways of working and recruiting. This unprecedented industry demand has resulted in the Programme attracting some of the most recognisable names in Wales, including Admiral, Confused.com and Principality Building Society.

The eight-month Programme, which is part-funded by the European Social Fund via Welsh Government, has been created to address the specific data challenges faced by Welsh businesses today. While they are deployed within businesses, the Programme provides graduates with additional specialist training in transformative digital services, skills that can be immediately utilised by their employers.

Keynote speakers at the virtual event to launch the Fast-Track Data and AI Graduate Programme included, Deputy Minister for Economy, Lee Waters; Chief Executive of renowned insurance and financial service site Confused.com, Louise O’Shea; and Microsoft’s Technology Strategist, Andrew Bourne.

Speaking to graduates and the consortium of businesses at the event, Chief Executive of Confused.com, Louise O’Shea emphasised the necessity of establishing and growing specialist data talent pools to support Welsh businesses. She said: “Data is valuable, but what is far more valuable, is having people who can transform data into meaning.

“Skills in big data and analytics are most in demand – in fact, the UK needs right now at least 16,000 specialists to fill this gap. This is why it’s so important that programmes like the Fast-track Data and AI graduate programme exist – so that students and employers can bridge the skills gap together.

“Those who seize the opportunity to develop their data science skills are carving out resilient and prosperous career opportunities for themselves. There’s never been a better time than now to be part of a programme that will shape our local and world economy.”

Digital transformation and cloud technologies present challenges and opportunities for business operating in every sector. Sharing expertise sourced from one of the world’s most recognised tech companies, Microsoft Technology Strategist, Andrew Bourne revealed why Wales businesses must harness the power of the cloud.

Andrew Bourne, Technology Strategist at Microsoft, said: “Data is one of the key driving forces behind the digital revolution and the proliferation of connected devices will only lead to its continuous growth. It’s the oil of the 21st century and the new competitive advantage. If you own the data, you own the future.

“Taking that data and doing something with it to bring new insights is what is important to maximise business impact and innovation. The journey these graduates are going to take and the skills they’ll learn are going to put them right at the heart of this revolution.”

The Programme will see 14 budding data and AI professionals, selected from a pool of top STEM graduates, kick-start their careers with some of Wales’ biggest brands including: Admiral, Amber Energy, Atradius, Confused.com, Optimum Credit, sa.global, Vauxhall Finance, Principality Building Society, Indigo Telecom and Skillcert.

Throughout the Programme graduates will be provided with the latest industry training covering AI, big data, machine & deep learning and upon completion, will see them gain a post-graduate diploma, delivered by the University of South Wales.

Participating graduate, Princewill Uzor (25), who has a background in Aerospace Engineering, said: “I chose to apply to the programme because I find the idea of being a pivotal part to a businesses’ success particularly exciting.”

“The programme offers an opportunity to gain highly specialised knowledge in a wide range of desirable industry software. Drawing from a large network of employers, the programme content is highly tailored and responsive to the needs of each graduate and I can’t wait to get started.”

The Programme has been designed to ensure graduates stay at the forefront of the ever-changing landscape of the data and AI industry, and in turn, provides businesses with the in-demand skills needed to thrive in the sector.

Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, Lee Waters said: “Technology is moving at a pace never seen before and the coronavirus pandemic has only served to underline the critical need for businesses to adopt digital into their ways of working so they can operate more efficiently, more flexibly and respond to ever changing demands including the need for increased remote working.

“We know that the vast majority of jobs now require at least some element of digital skills and we are working hard to build capacity here in Wales.

“This Welsh Government supported Fast-Track Data and AI Graduate Programme is an important part of that effort and will provide new and exciting opportunities for businesses and individuals.

“Our Welsh tech sector is already thriving in Wales, but we must keep building on that success and continuously strive to innovate and lead. I wish each and every graduate on the programme the very best for an interesting, exciting, and rewarding career.”

Sandra Busby, Managing Director of the Welsh Contact Centre Forum, which manages Graduate Programme Wales, said: “The launch of the Fast-Track Programme marks an exciting time for the data and AI industry in Wales as our high-calibre group of graduates begin their careers with some of the most respected businesses in the industry.

“With support from the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund, we were able to act quickly to create a Fast-Track Programme, designed to provide an effective solution to the training and recruitment challenges the data and AI sector faces today. We have worked closely with the industry to ensure that the Programme presents Welsh businesses with highly skilled graduates to bolster their workforce.

“We’re eager to see the positive outcomes of the Programme for both this year’s graduates, and participating employers.”