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Addressing the digital skills gap

The demand for data science professionals has tripled over the last five years (+231%) according to a report by The Royal Society. However, thousands of job roles continue to go unfilled as organisations struggle to find the talent they need. Data Analysts, Data Scientists and Machine Learning Engineers are amongst those that are most sought after. But there simply aren’t enough people being trained to meet the emerging demand.

While organisations are making tracks to invest heavily in data science and AI, the lack of talent is holding back progress. In a study by Rainbird, 81% of UK businesses said a shortage of talent is the main hurdle to AI adoption.

Even non-technical roles like HR, Marketing and Sales are requiring data science skills. The World Economic Forum reports that more than half of all employees will require significant upskilling by 2022.

Now, employers can grow and retain data science talent within their organisation through government-funded apprenticeships. Apprenticeships offer a well-defined route for upskilling people into new technical roles, including Data Analyst, Data Scientist and Machine Learning Engineer.

Here is a full list of the apprenticeships offered by Cambridge Spark:

Read on to find out more.

What skills are in demand?

Data science and AI cover a broad range of skills, all of which are vital for ensuring business success in today’s increasingly competitive market.

Python, big data, SQL databases, data visualisation and machine learning are amongst the most sought after skills. Here’s how they can benefit businesses:


Python is the primary programming language used by data scientists across the world to transform raw data into actionable insights. It can also be used to automate repetitive tasks, such as updating spreadsheets, renaming files and compiling reports.

Big data

Being able to process and derive insight from big data means companies can improve customer acquisition and retention, create more targeted marketing campaigns and predict sales trends.

SQL databases

SQL (Structured Query Language) is the key to unlocking all the data within your company so that it can be manipulated and turned into actionable insights.

Data visualisation

Data visualisation is a game changer for organisations wanting to work directly with data, as it allows for complex data to be conveyed visually in a clear and concise way that it can be understood – and utilised – by the whole business.

Machine Learning

The ability to build and implement machine learning allows companies to improve their processes and solve problems in real-time.

A new era for apprenticeships

For both employers seeking candidates with the relevant technical skills and individuals wanting to pursue a career in data science and AI, government-funded apprenticeships offer an exciting opportunity.

What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are a long-term training commitment which seek to upskill existing UK-based employees within an organisation, enabling employers to foster a workforce consisting of highly-skilled and highly-engaged talent.

They typically run over 12-24 months and include 20% off-the-job training, enabling a blended approach between theory and practical-learning.

Who are apprenticeships for?

Apprenticeships aren’t just for school leavers. They are open to current as well as new employees, people of any age, and even those with previous qualifications.

Apprenticeships can be for people early in their careers as well as experienced talent looking to advance their skill set or change careers, which is increasingly necessary as the world of work changes.


“86% of employers said apprenticeships developed skills relevant to their organisation and 78% reported improved productivity.”

What is off-the-job training?

Off-the-job training is defined as learning which is undertaken outside of the day-to-day work duties, and it must take place within the apprentice’s normal (contracted) working hours.

It is a statutory requirement that all apprenticeships in England must include 20% off-the-job training.

The apprenticeship funding rules state that off-the-job training can include the following:

  • The teaching of theory (for example: lectures, role playing, simulation exercises, online learning or manufacturer training)
  • Practical training: shadowing, mentoring, industry visits and participation in competitions
  • Learning support and time spent writing assessments / assignments.

The training can be delivered on a flexible basis, for example, as a part of each day, one day per week, one week of five or as block release. It can take place at many locations including the workplace, off-site (e.g. classroom) or from home via remote learning.

Benefits of off-the-job training

  • Provides learners with the time to focus and develop the required skills, knowledge and behaviours to achieve the apprenticeship
  • Accelerates learning
  • Ensures new skills are embedded in the workplace

How are apprenticeships funded?

Apprenticeships are funded by the UK government through the Apprenticeship Levy.

What is the Apprenticeship Levy?

The Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in April 2017 to drive investment in strengthening the country’s skills base.

All organisations with staff costs of over £3m pay 0.5% of their salary bill into a ring-fenced Apprenticeship Levy pot. The money is collected monthly via PAYE, but can be clawed back within 24 months and used for training on approved apprenticeship schemes.

Companies who don’t pay the Levy can access apprenticeships through co-investment. They are required to pay just 5% of the cost of the apprenticeship, paid directly to the training provider. The government pays the remaining 95%.

Apprenticeships are an attractive option for employers…

Employers already taking advantage of the Levy are reaping the rewards. In a survey by BCS, 71% of employers reported significant returns on their apprenticeship investment.

Many UK firms see their Apprenticeship Levy money disappearing every month. But if you’re paying into the Levy, it’s there to be used. Employers can even collaborate with external training providers to deliver learning and ensure apprentices are equipped with the right skills for their business.

…And for employees wanting a career change

Apprenticeships provide an affordable option for people wanting to pursue a career in data science or AI. Investing in your career often comes with a personal responsibility; you spend time and money on a bootcamp, online course or masters degree.

With a government-funded apprenticeship your employers organise the training with funding from their Levy funds and you can continue to work while you train. Upskilling employees from different areas of the business is an attractive proposition for employers as it means no recruitment costs and increased engagement as you are already familiar with the company.

Benefits of apprenticeships

Why choose an apprenticeship over other training programmes?


Apprenticeships provide free training for employers paying into the Apprenticeship Levy. Non-levy paying companies can access training at a significantly reduced cost. Corporate training programmes, on the other hand, can cost employers thousands.

For individuals seeking a career change, it means you can access through training through your employer rather than having to spend thousands on upskilling yourself.


An apprenticeship provides individuals with an industry-recognised qualification or certificate, that they would not necessarily get with a corporate training programme or online course.


Apprenticeships are highly regulated and held to a high-quality standard by both Ofsted and ESFA, and are only available from accredited providers to ensure high quality and effective transfer of skills into the workplace.

Hands on, practical training

There is evidence that ‘learning by doing’ (experiential learning) increases transfer of learning from classroom to workplace.


Apprenticeships form part of the ongoing conversation about closing the digital skills gap in the UK and a lot of commitment goes into ensuring they cover the most up to date and industry-relevant skills.


Employers can adapt the training an apprentice receives according to the needs of their organisation.

Increased productivity

Businesses that invest in learning opportunities for staff have more engaged employees, and companies with engaged teams outperform those without by 202%.

Talent retention

90% of apprentices stay on in their place of work after completing an apprenticeship.

Top Employers who use Python

shopifygoogle dropbox facebook

Uses of Python


Analysts typically have to sift through multiple csv files, merge them and email summary reports automatically.

Data Analysis

Visualising information, extracting data from word documents, text files and spreadsheets.

Web App

Creating web application for people to use (e.g. Youtube was initially written in Python).

Data science & AI learning pathways

Apprenticeships offer a well-defined route for upskilling people into new technical roles. There are a number of learning pathways available:

1. Data Analyst pathway:

Data Analyst Apprenticeship (Level 4)

This apprenticeship is also suitable for advancing the skill set of people who work with data on a regular basis but aren’t looking to become Data Analysts.

2. Data Scientist pathway:

Data Analyst Apprenticeship (Level 4) or Data Science BSc (Level 6) > Data Science Apprenticeship (Level 7) or DTS Data Analytics MSc (Level 7)

People with some experience in data science and who are already using Python at an intermediate level can go straight onto the Data Science Apprenticeship (L7) or DTS Data Analytics MSc (L7). They do not need to complete the L4 apprenticeship or L6 BSc first.

3. Machine Learning pathway:

Machine Learning Engineer Apprenticeship (L7)

Apprenticeship programmes

Data Analyst Apprenticeship (level 4)

The Data Analyst Apprenticeship (Level 4) covers the collecting, managing and analysing of data for business insight. Apprentices will be equipped with practical skills that will enable them to answer complex questions and drive strategic value for the business.


“2019 was the 4th year running that the Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey found that analytics is top of the skills shortage critical list”

Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey

What does a Data Analyst do?

A Data Analyst extracts, manipulates and visualises unstructured data to make actionable recommendations for the business.

Key skills:

  • Data cleaning
  • Data analysis
  • Python
  • SQL
  • Data visualisation
  • Big data

This apprenticeship is for full-time employees who are:

  • Working with data on a regular basis (whether you’re generating reports, analysing data, or crunching numbers using spreadsheets)
  • Looking to add more strategic value that’s backed by data
  • Wanting to future-proof their skill set by learning in-demand, industry-relevant skills
  • Working in a data-driven department, for example, business intelligence, data assurance, data quality, finance, marketing, sales or manufacturing
  • Have no prior data or computer science degree or related experience (exceptions may apply)

The apprenticeship standard indicates a 24-month programme, but some training providers offer accelerated courses. At Cambridge Spark, we offer a 14-month programme, helping you to upskill faster. A shorter programme also means less time spent off-the-job, and learners are ready to deliver value much faster.

Our blended learning model is built to empower you to develop a strong understanding of data analysis fundamentals, whilst gaining practical experience of working on real-world problems within a work-simulated environment via K.A.T.E.®, our proprietary AI-powered learning and assessment platform that provides instant, personalised feedback.

Our apprenticeship programme equips learners with the most industry-relevant programming and data analysis skills – enabling you to perform advanced data analytics on big data and automate tasks using Python.


“The content and delivery of the programme so far has allowed me to significantly improve my ability using Python, Pandas and working with data structures.”

GlaxoSmithKline Data Analyst Apprentice

Data Science and Machine Learning Apprenticeships (Level 7)

The Data Science and Machine Learning Apprenticeship equips learners with practical skills to discover and devise new data-driven AI solutions, to automate and optimise business processes, and to support, augment and enhance decision-making.

The curriculum is based on the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Data Specialist (Level 7) apprenticeship standard, which was developed in collaboration with a variety of tech-focused companies including the BBC, Bank of England, Barclays, GlaxoSmithKline and the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Across 15 months, apprentices will undertake expert-designed self-paced modules delivered remotely, whilst receiving coaching, attending check-ins and submitting assignments via K.A.T.E.®.

What does a Data Scientist do?

While a Data Analyst can extract meaningful insights from various data sources, a Data Scientist can also forecast future trends, predictions and opportunities based on past patterns.

Key skills:

  • Big data
  • Machine learning
  • Python
  • SQL
  • Automation

What does a Machine Learning Engineer do?

A Machine Learning Engineer feeds data into models that are defined by Data Scientists. They are responsible for creating programmes and algorithms that enable machines to take actions without being directed, so they can produce and maintain systems that can be used to leverage insights across the business.

Key skills:

  • Computer science fundamentals and programming
  • Probability and statistics
  • Data modeling and evaluation
  • Applying machine learning algorithms and libraries
  • Software engineering and system design

This apprenticeship is for full-time employees who are:

  • Required to analyse complex datasets on a regular basis
  • Already using Python at an intermediate level and have fundamental statistics experience
  • For MLE Apprenticeship – must have 2 years of software engineering experience or a Computer Science degree
  • Looking to upskill into Data Scientist or Machine Learning Engineer roles
  • Wanting to champion AI and its applications within their organisation

“Great content and great set of assignments in each module to get your hands dirty with code and real-world data sets.”

Ravi Singh, Data Scientist at HBO

Degree apprenticeships

Cambridge Spark’s degree apprenticeships enable employers to train their staff with degree qualifications, funded by the Apprenticeship Levy, to meet their skills needs.

The BSc (Hons) in Data Science and the MSc in Digital and Technology Solutions (Data Analytics) launched last year and were developed in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University.

Both degree apprenticeships are taught via a unique blend of immersive teaching weeks, online study and a hackathon-style bootcamp which simulates real-world environments.

BSc (Hons) Data Science degree apprenticeship
(Level 6)

The BSc (Hons) Data Science degree apprenticeship is for people with no programming experience and equips learners with the skills and knowledge to identify, analyse and understand complex data. This enables them to improve processes and make better decisions for the business.

Msc Digital and Technology Solutions (Data Analytics) degree apprenticeship (Level 7)

The MSc Digital and Technology Solutions (Data Analytics) degree apprenticeship is for people who already hold a bachelors degree and can write and execute Python code at an intermediate level. The apprenticeship equips learners with the tools and techniques to process large complex datasets, allowing them to extract and derive valuable insights to inform business decisions.

Which organisations benefit from apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships can benefit organisations of all sizes across all industries. The skills that apprentices will learn aren’t only relevant to data-specific departments and roles either.

  • Banking and Finance
  • Investment Management
  • Retail
  • Transport
  • Supply Chain, Logistics and Operations
  • Manufacturing
  • Energy and Utilities
  • Life Sciences & Pharmaceuticals
  • Communications, Media and Entertainment
  • Education

Choosing an apprenticeship training provider

There are lots of training providers offering apprenticeships in the field of data science and AI, and it’s important to find the right one for you and your business. Regardless of the specific apprenticeship you are looking at, there are a number of factors you should consider when choosing a provider:

Programme delivery

Most providers tend to offer a blended learning model, with a mix of instructor-led training – which may be held in-person or virtually – and e-learning modules. When choosing a provider you will need to think about the most appropriate balance for you or your team, as well as any travel implications of in-person training.

Programme length

There can be a great deal of variety in the length of the apprenticeship depending on the specific provider. As a general rule, 24 months is the standard. However, a 14 or 15 month programme accelerates learning and minimises the amount of time apprentices spend off-the-job.

Learner support

The more support apprentices receive throughout the programme, the more confident they will be when applying their new skills in the workplace. Support can come in many forms, including:

  • One-to-one coaching sessions
  • Technical mentorship
  • Online support groups where apprentices can connect with each other

Some training providers also leverage technologies like gamification and AI to support apprentices on their learning journey. Gamification is great for engaging learners and improving knowledge retention by enabling them to test their skills in a real-world context.

At Cambridge Spark, our proprietary AI-powered learning assessment platform, EDUKATE.AI®, supports learners by providing real-world simulated projects with personalised feedback and recommendations.


While all apprenticeship providers will deliver the standard curriculum, some will go above and beyond to ensure apprentices are equipped with the most relevant skills for industry. For example, not all providers of the Data Analyst Apprenticeship (Level 4) will teach apprentices how to code in Python – the world’s most popular programming language. Make sure you check the curriculum carefully when choosing a provider to ensure it meets your needs.


In an industry where the jobs needed to be done are evolving faster than businesses can upskill the people needed to do them, it’s important that you choose a provider with the relevant and most up to date knowledge and experience of data science and AI.

Asking providers the following questions should tell you what you need to know:

  • What experience do you have in providing data science training?
  • What other programmes do you offer?
  • How long have you been providing this apprenticeship?
  • What qualifications do your trainers and coaches have?

Apprenticeships with Cambridge Spark

Cambridge Spark is a leader in transformational data science and AI training. Our pioneering training programmes, built on our proprietary AI-powered learning and assessment platform, EDUKATE.AI®, accelerate the tech capability of both individuals and organisations.

Expert designed curriculum

Our apprenticeship and degree apprenticeship programmes are designed by Data Scientists and Data Analysts working in industry, for industry.

Instant feedback 24/7 with EDUKATE.AI®

Learning is supported by our proprietary assessment and development platform, EDUKATE.AI®, to help apprentices learn at a quicker rate. Learners are given instant feedback that’s aligned with standards such as PEP8, Pylint, Cyclomatic Complexity and Unit Tests, as well as machine learning metrics such as accuracy, F1 score, MSE and the confusion matrix.

Work-based projects and portfolios

Learners gain applied practical experience through completing real world data problems. Our programmes are focused on enabling learners to apply new skills into their work right away, driving value for the business and ensuring ROI.

Innovative virtual learning solutions

Our live, instructor-led virtual learning sessions have been specifically designed for group remote learning. Training takes place over high-quality video and audio, creating a virtual classroom. Learners also have access to break out rooms, supported by Slack, where they can come together to chat, socialise and discuss the training.

Flexible, self-paced e-learning

Our self-paced e-learning modules ensure maximum flexibility and minimal disruption to your business. Apprentices are supported by a team of tutors and technical experts who can brief them on projects, answer questions and provide feedback.

Teaching & coaching from professionals

The very fabric of Cambridge Spark is deeply-rooted in academia, with our teaching and coaching team consisting of PhD’s from the UK’s best universities, and professionals with backgrounds in world-renowned Machine Learning organisations, such as Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Amazon, and Morgan Stanley.

Join a specialist network and community

Apprentices enjoy the informal, friendly team that helps them build confidence to communicate and share findings with fellow learners. On completing the apprenticeship, learners will become part of the Cambridge Spark alumni network.

Interested in learning more?

Fill out the following form and we’ll email you within the next two business days to arrange a quick call to help with questions about any of our Apprenticeship programmes.

We look forward to speaking with you.

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