Starting a fascinating data career in the 21st Century

If you have missed the government drive to increase apprentices across all sectors and industries then you may have missed the slogan “get in, go far”.  Gareth Clancy explains how you can get in and go far as an apprentice at the Office for National Statistics.

There’s a data revolution going on and ONS  is taking advantage of the opportunities it  offers to provide even richer information on the economy and society to help inform the nation’s decision-making. The variety of apprenticeship programmes matching ONS career paths means this is really becoming the case now.

Although the work to develop talent at all levels and stages of someone’s career is constantly ongoing at ONS we can be proud of the fact we have established a framework from a zero base and also be excited about the ambitious plans we have for 2017 and beyond.

We have launched a recruitment campaign to boost the number of Data Analytics Apprentices across Government.

Our data and analysis are extremely influential to the working lives of all of us in the UK. To extend this influence further we are offering our staff and recruits varied development routes so they use cutting edge tools and techniques associated with the field of data science.

Before delving into what we have set up and how stimulating the work is, I want to dispel 3 myths about apprenticeships:

  1. Apprenticeships are only for the young or school leavers. Not true! In England and Wales people of all ages can sign up to do an apprenticeship.
  2. Apprenticeships are only in “traditional trades”. Not true! Apprenticeships at ONS now cover a range of office services from Commercial Procurement, Human Resources Management through to Cyber Security.
  3. Apprenticeships are only available for lower educational qualifications. Not true! At ONS we have started schemes where the successful apprentices will receive qualifications equivalent to the first few years of a degree and we will start schemes which are equivalent to completing a degree in within a year.

Central to this is our flagship Data Analytics scheme that we set up in 2016, a UK first which the Welsh government Minister for Skills and Science recognised on her visit to meet the first 8 apprentices. The 2-year course leads to a level 4 diploma (the next step on from A Levels) by using industry and academic expertise in conjunction with gaining practical skills on real ONS projects.

Data analytics apprentices learn to manipulate data in programming languages so they can apply the latest data visualisation techniques to answer questions affecting the UK and the world. These skills and those from the statistical analysis module provide the first steps on a career as a data scientist as part of the statistical profession. However, the data analytics course also grows knowledge linking analysis with the technology space through the development of programming skills associated with software engineering. So graduates of the scheme have a new package of skills with a broad range of potential career paths.

Our ONS apprenticeship journey has just started and given us an appetite to become ever more ambitious. In Wales, this includes recruiting more Data Analytics apprentices at level 4 in the coming months, not just for ONS but also for Welsh government. Then following the success of the first Welsh cohort we are eager to get the same accredited standard up and running as soon as possible in England for ONS and the wider statistical profession across government. In addition to getting wider provision of the level 4 data analytics apprenticeship we will lead a trailblazing employer group in 2017 to design and establish a degree level apprenticeship.

If you would like to learn more about any of our apprenticeship opportunities and how you can get involved then please e-mail


Gareth Clancy ONS and GSS Career Strategy and Capability