The BRC and Cambridge Spark are today announcing a new partnership to bridge the data science and AI skills gap in the retail sector. Working together, they will provide retailers with tailored courses built to meet the specific demands that retailers have as they rapidly restructure and reskill their workforces in the face of a changing and turbulent sector. Enrolment for their first joint offering, the Level 4 Data Analyst Apprenticeship for Retail, is now open.

The UK retail industry is undergoing unprecedented change as a result of the ongoing digital transformation that has been accelerated by coronavirus. The impact of the pandemic is compounding difficulties already faced by retailers, having shed approximately 72,000 jobs in 2019 according to BRC research. However, new innovation technologies are providing retailers with an opportunity to develop and improve their offering both online and in store, allowing them to adapt in line with changing consumer behaviours. From the supply chain to the head office, the use of technology and data can make the industry more efficient, and while this may mean fewer jobs in retail, those that remain will better paid and higher skilled. Roles within the industry are changing, with more than 100,000 people employed in retail jobs that did not exist 5 years ago - a figure that is certain to increase as retailers adapt to the new roles and skillsets needed for their businesses to succeed.

With increasing competition for the data science talent that does exist (with 81% of UK businesses citing shortage of skills as a hurdle to adopting AI), retailers need to look to their existing workforce and early talent. The World Economic Forum reports that more than half of all employees globally will require significant upskilling by 2022. This is not limited to roles in technology departments, but includes roles across entire organisations. Employees in departments including HR, Finance and Marketing can all benefit from using data science skills in their existing roles to gain greater insight and drive more value for the organisation, ranging from AI enhancing supply chain forecasting through to using reinforcement learning to optimise prices.

To support retailers in this transition, the BRC and Cambridge Spark are entering a partnership to help retail professionals upskill and help secure the future of the retail industry. The partnership aims to create a full learning pathway for technical Data Science and AI training in the retail industry, including Apprenticeships and executive training. The BRC and Cambridge Spark will be working directly with retailers to develop these programmes that empower their workforce to meet business objectives. The initial offering will be the Level 4 Data Analyst Apprenticeship for Retail, with enrolment now open for the February 2021 intake. As part of this unique course, Apprentices will use real-world retail datasets in their studies, with access to expertise retail insight from the BRC and the industry-leading data science and AI expertise of Cambridge Spark, including their unique data science learning platform EDUKATE.AI. The BRC and Cambridge Spark are currently holding focus groups with retailers to develop the curriculum, with plans to introduce further courses throughout 2021.

"We are incredibly excited to be partnering with BRC to deliver a range of digital apprenticeships and training programmes to support the retail sector in maximising business and growth opportunities,” says Dr Raoul-Gabriel Urma, CEO and Founder of Cambridge Spark. “The retail sector is seeing many threats from large tech organisations and it's time to level up. There's incredible untapped operational and data opportunities available within retail organisations to increase competitiveness. Through our partnership with BRC we are looking to upskill retail professionals so they can be an integral part of the digital revolution."

“Retail is one of the most innovative and vibrant industries, continuously adapting to changing consumer behaviours. The ongoing transformation driven by new technologies has been accelerated by coronavirus. As a result it is likely there will be fewer retail jobs in the future. Nonetheless, these jobs will be higher skilled and better paid. From AI experts to social media analysts to data scientists, there are now hundreds of jobs that didn’t exist ten years ago. We hope that this new partnership will provide the next generation of retailers with the skills they need to succeed in these new roles and lead the success of this exciting and dynamic industry.” commented Helen Dickinson, BRC Chief Executive.

To find out more join us for a free webinar “Becoming a data-driven retail organisation: learning pathways for building data science and analytics teams” 14th October, 1pm.