M&S multichannel

The 18-month training programme comes as part of M&S’s promise to become a ‘digital-first’ retailer

M&S is to enrol more than 1,000 staff into its own data skills academy as part of its push to become more digitally savvy.

The retailer is launching the Data Fellowship - the world’s first data academy programme from a retailer - to train staff across every retail function, including store managers, head office employees, visual merchandisers and buyers, to become qualified data scientists. It will offer employees an 18-month course, including training on how to use data analytics tools, AI, machine learning and programming languages like Python.

An M&S spokesman told The Grocer it had opened the academy to employees in all retail functions to reflect the company-wide endeavour to become more digital-focused.

The training will begin with M&S’s leadership team, who will embark on a data leadership programme. The retailer hopes this hands-on experience with technology will enable them to lead their teams to transform M&S into a ‘digital-first’ retailer.

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M&S’s leadership team and the employees who take part in the training will receive a data analytics qualification accredited by the British Computing Society when the programme comes to an end. It will be funded by the government’s Apprenticeship Levy, in collaboration with training provider Decoded.

M&S has yet to decide when the training will begin for its leadership team and staff, or how staff will be selected for it.

“This is our biggest digital investment in our people to date, and the creation of the M&S data academy will upskill colleagues and provide them with an in-depth level of digital literacy as well as a data analytics qualification,” said M&S CEO Steve Rowe. “Transformation of our business is key to survival and a huge part of this lies with our colleagues. We need to change our digital behaviours, mindsets and our culture to make the business fit for the digital age and our partnership with Decoded will enable us to do this.”

Decoded founder Kathryn Parsons added: “We are proud to be working with one of the UK’s most iconic brands in retail and excited to be putting data literacy and skills in the hands of over 1,000 people. This is a pioneering and inspiring commitment to lifelong learning and future-facing skills. Every leader in business today should take note.”