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SAS launches free data skills programme for job seekers

Pro bono data skills programme, in tandem with job placement agencies, has the aim of training 10,000 people

SAS has launched a free programme to train 10,000 job seekers in data skills, called STEP.

The programme has come out of an internal SAS UK and Ireland employee competition, provoked by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ahead of launch, Roderick Crawford, vice-president and country manager, SAS UKI, described the programme’s origins. “We asked ourselves, beyond giving access to our software for free, we wanted to do something with a big impact, and so asked our employees what they wanted to do, and this was the winner,” he said. “It took our breath away.”

Crawford said the work SAS did on the furlough scheme for HM Revenue and Customs, and relatedly for the Department for Work and Pensions, enabled them to see the scale of the furlough scheme, and the economic impact the virus would have.

“It’s a free-of-charge reskilling and employment initiative, designed to equip the UK workforce with vital analytics and data skills for in-demand jobs,” he said.

STEP stands for software, training, enablement, placement, and Crawford said SAS aims to train 10,000 people over the next 12 months.

The supplier plans to partner recruiters and other organisations to help place candidates into job roles.

“That is a big differentiator – that we are working with placement agencies,” he said. “We’re not just saying ‘here is some free training in SAS’. We are trying to help people to get jobs.”

The programme is mainly aimed at people seeking employment or facing redundancy, but is open to anyone looking to make themselves more employable, including graduates, the self-employed, or those already in employment.

Crawford said SAS wanted to target geographical areas most in need of data skills training. It is partnering with the University of Bradford to help deliver the programme there following a pilot in late 2020.

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One of the University of Bradford partipants, Ranjit Khera, said in the SAS statement about the programme: “Going through the process of being made redundant from my role at a major utility company after 13 years in the role left me feeling a lot of uncertainty over my future job prospects. Thankfully, the SAS STEP programme was a real lifeline for me in this regard. These skills will be invaluable to my career progression and have already given me more confidence about the types of job I can now apply for.”

Sankar Sivarajah, head of the School of Management in the University of Bradford’s Faculty of Management, Law and Social Sciences, said: “The successful joint digital skills pilot programme delivered by SAS and the University of Bradford was extremely well received and has made a positive difference for the Bradford community. It has provided the opportunity for our city’s workforce to re-skill and equip them with vital data and analytics skills and capacity that is needed for in-demand jobs as we prepare for the post-Covid-19 recovery of our economy in Bradford.”     

The programme has four “pathways”. The first is a foundational data literacy pathway, along with a data analysis course. Further data engineering and the more advanced data science pathways will be released later in the year. Crawford confirmed that the more advanced modules will include technologies other than SAS ones.

As part of the course, candidates will receive hands-on training through a tailored software portal.

Gillian Keegan, minister for apprenticeships and skills, added this comment to the supplier’s statement: “I am delighted to welcome the roll-out of SAS STEP, which will help even more people get access to the highly valued data skills they need to get ahead. As we build back better from the pandemic, it is even more important that everyone, no matter their background, is able to learn the skills they need to progress their careers or develop new opportunities.”

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