IRI and Co-op collaborate to provide data science apprenticeship programmes for the UK’s future business leaders

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IRI, a global leader in big data, technology and analytics solutions for consumer, retail and media companies, is working closely with Co-op, one of the UK’s largest food retailers, to provide more young people with an alternative route into employment via its apprenticeship programmes. The programmes are designed to provide a learning structure and valuable work experience vital for nurturing the skills of the next generation of UK business leaders. 

IRI plans to double its apprenticeship cohort over the coming years. This will offer a critical talent pipeline into the business and attract the freshest, most exciting young people at a stage when they are most engaged and willing to learn. 

IRI’s most recent talent intake sees two apprentices join the business to work on its prestigious Co-op account. Both students are enrolled in the BSc (Hons) data science degree course at the University of Keele and were selected from over 150 applicants. The course is aimed at apprentices with an interest in the application of data science and computing to a wide range of theoretical and real-world problems.  

Commenting on the value that apprenticeship courses provide both students and employers, Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Gillian Keegan said: “Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to learn while you earn, opening up new career paths that can change lives. They will play a vital role in our Plan for Jobs, helping to create and protect jobs as we build back better in 2021 and beyond. 

“Throughout the pandemic apprentices have continued to step up to the mark, providing vital services often in challenging circumstances. National Apprenticeship Week is a great opportunity to highlight how apprenticeships help businesses to access new talent from all backgrounds and transform lives. We also want to shine a light on those employers and apprentices who have continued to go above and beyond during this time. 

“I strongly encourage everyone to take part and spread the word about the amazing apprenticeships on offer, at all levels and in sectors from cyber security to accounting.”

As a big data technology company, staying at the forefront of innovation is key to IRI. Jaime Silvester, head of retail, IRI said: “Through our data science apprenticeship programmes we’ve found some amazing young people that are genuinely interested in some of IRI’s core competencies, such as interpretation of big data and the ability to understand how retailers think and operate.”

She continued: “Apprentices offer businesses something really unique. They are deciding about the future of their careers and this comes through in their tenacity, commitment and drive. 

“Our apprentices may become the future leaders of our organisation. They’re going to be the curious, client-obsessed hackers that are completely evangelical about our technology and the direction we’re going in as an organisation.”

Commenting on Co-op’s commitment to education and training, and the value data science brings to its business, Adam Gitlin, head of retail insight, Co-op said: “We’ve always been committed to education and training and so we want to make sure everyone has an equal chance to fulfil their potential; that’s why we champion apprenticeships. With more than 1,200 positions across our business, apprentices bring a whole new level of energy, enthusiasm and new ways of thinking into the Co-op.”

Gitlin continued: “Data science has a crucial role to play as it touches every part of our business. As more businesses undergo digital transformation, interpreting and understanding data will become fundamental to their survival.

“When we see other companies, such as IRI, share the same values as Co-op, we’re inevitably drawn towards them so that together we can cooperate for a fairer world.”