Got a friend or family member who’s considering an apprenticeship? Or maybe you’re part of a business thinking of setting up apprenticeships? Here’s Business Analytics Lead, Amelia Krol with her insights from the programme she completed. Amelia covers everything from content and structure to support and challenges, with some great hints and tips along the way.
Do you know that feeling of waking up excited to learn new things? This is how I felt for about 18 months while completing my Data Analyst Apprenticeship with Cambridge Spark. Each week was equally challenging and thrilling at the same time, making the course a transformative journey.
As a Data Analyst apprentice, you can expect to be outside of your comfort zone for the majority of the programme. The instructors carefully craft sessions and assignments to accelerate your personal growth and allow you to go above and beyond when you are ready.
Why should you do an apprenticeship?
I decided to join the programme to expand my knowledge about data science and data analytics techniques. I felt like I needed to add to my skillset so I could advance my reporting, automate processes and be more agile when it comes to using the most suitable tool or technique for the data I worked with.
I knew what my key areas of improvement were and I tried to take my own initiative and find courses online, which worked well so some time. However, I found it challenging to progress with my studies without having a structured curriculum and knowing what’s best to learn next. It was quite frustrating when I used to move to the next thing realising that there was a small but a very important topic I missed, and it prevented me from fully understanding the next one.
Although I had very little experience with coding languages like SQL or Python when I started the apprenticeship, I felt quite confident using my new skills in recent projects. Moreover, as a person who doesn’t have a degree in STEM subjects or a scientific background, I found it easy to follow the course materials and didn’t feel left out. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean there were no tough moments when I had to spend quite a lot of time doing further research and reaching out for help to my data mentor. The curriculum covers various tools used for data processing and analysis as well as data science and machine learning. The great thing about the programme was the ease of access to additional resources and support sessions with tutors from various backgrounds. Additionally, the apprenticeship provider ran online sessions with data leaders from various industries to shine more light on the different data challenges that companies face as well as solutions they develop to address these issues.
The programme caters to learners with a wide range of learning preferences. It includes virtual sessions where instructors introduce key topics and show examples, answer questions as well as written materials in the form of PDFs, links to articles, presentations and live coding sessions. Each apprentice needs to complete assignments after every module and write a project portfolio before the final assessment, which consists of a professional discussion, a written project and a presentation. Although the data mentors and course instructors provide a lot of support and guidance, you have to be prepared to manage your workload in your day-to-day job and the deadlines associated with the course. I was very lucky to have a manager who supported me throughout the programme and ensured that I had the time to study and prepare for my final assessment while working towards quarterly goals.
I really appreciated that the learning sessions as well as support meetings were delivered virtually, it was crucial in managing my time and also meant that it was easy to connect with the instructors and mentors. Also, Cambridge Spark provides access to two platforms, one is used for storing learning materials, session recordings and assignment submissions, and the second one helps to keep track of the deadlines as well as tasks that need to be completed before the final assessment.
I believe apprenticeships are a great way to either learn new skills or build on your existing knowledge. The nature of the programme not only challenges you to research and utilise new technologies and approaches to complete assignments but also pushes you to apply these new skills in projects you execute at work.
It can get overwhelming and tedious at times but I trusted the process and finished the programme with distinction. It took many evenings spent on researching various topics and hours of re-writing a line of code to then realise that the only problem was a misspelt dataframe name. However, I’m now a better and more confident data professional.
Here are the key tips to prepare yourself for the programme.
- Maintain a well-organised calendar to allow for focus time
- Sign up for forums where people share valuable information within your line of work
- Follow leaders in your industry to stay on top of key insights useful for your projects
- Keep a structured notes folder to make sure you can easily access information
- Be resilient and willing to step out of your comfort zone