Special Report: Data training courses ‘can help firms stay competitive’

“Unleash the power of your data by developing the skills of your people.”

That was the rallying cry from three organisations earlier this year as they launched two data analytics apprenticeships for the business travel sector.

Professional services firm Grant Thornton, BPP School of Technology and the Business Travel Association designed the courses to help business travel firms tackle “critical” digital skill gaps.

Twenty-six employees from BTA members Agiito, Amex GBT, ATPI, BCD Travel, Clarity, Flight Centre and Gray Dawes began the courses last month, with more planning to enrol in future.

Qualifications are now being designed for the leisure travel sector.

MoreData skills apprenticeship created for business travel sector to be extended

Helen Turner, BTA member and partnerships manager, explained the rationale behind the courses.

“Businesses are struggling to analyse and manage their valuable data effectively, mainly due to the significant lack of data and digital skills across most industries,” she said.

“Data analytics plays such a critical role to ensure firms remain competitive.”

She said there was “very limited awareness” of the apprenticeship levy and government funding, so the courses helped tackle that problem while promoting the benefits of staff development.

Turner said: “Organisations in England with an annual salary bill of more than £3 million have been paying 0.5% of this [bill] each month as an apprenticeship levy since 2017.

“This is to be used to attract and train new talent, as well as upskilling, developing and retraining existing talent. The programme costs are paid from the levy fund.

“Companies that don’t pay the levy only have to contribute 5% of the total programme cost, as the government co-invests the remaining 95%.” This means non-levy paying organisations pay £600 for the Level 3 and £750 for the Level 4 qualifications.

The Level 3 Data Citizen qualification equates to two A-levels, while the Level 4 Data Analyst qualification equates to the first year of a degree.

Apprentices spend a minimum of six hours a week learning for their qualification, via webinars, mentoring, industry visits and one to-one coaching.

Helen Gibson, client solutions at Data Assembly, part of the BPP Education Group, said apprentices could, for example, study data following a natural disaster to find out the best time to rebook travel, or ascertain reasons for a spike in bookings.

Sue Ledgard, talent solutions consumer industry lead at Grant Thornton, said: “It is a no-brainer. Data is king but most people are not properly taught how to use data.

“We’re seeing the ‘big resignation’ because people are being offered opportunities elsewhere or are demotivated due to lack of development.”

She warned of “huge misconceptions” about apprenticeships being just for young people, adding: “They’re for anyone of any age, at any stage of their career, who wants to develop themselves.”

What the employers say:

Aneen Brynard, Global SME HR director, American Express Global Business Travel

“At Amex GBT, we understand the invaluable role of people who can translate complex data-driven insights into strategic actions. We believe these insights can help our travellers and customers better understand their data and trends. So, when we were informed by the BTA of this great opportunity offered by Grant Thornton to put forward employees to build their skills in data analytics through an apprenticeship programme, we just had to take it.”

Neil Wainwright-Farrar, head of Learning & development, Clarity Travel

“Clarity is delighted to continue investing and offering continuous personal development for our employees, providing them with the opportunity to study on this fantastic BTA Data Academy. Data is everywhere and is really important to organisations, so this qualification will ensure Clarity continues to maximise the value of data assets.”

Will Leonelli, people and culture leader for Europe, Flight Centre Travel Group

“At Flight Centre, our ‘Brightness of Future’ philosophy ensures our people are equipped with the training, resources, and support to follow whatever career path they desire. Offering apprenticeships to enable individuals to grow new skills or hone existing ones is an easy and effective way to bring this philosophy alive, whilst maximising usage of the levy funds. There is a critical need for the development of data skills and it is therefore fantastic to be partnering with GT and BPP to offer data apprenticeships to grow our inhouse expertise.”

Rachel Brown, head of HR & training and development, ATPI

“The travel industry as a whole is looking to fill vacancies and attract a new wave of talent to the sector post-Covid, which is why ATPI is always on the lookout for attractive training opportunities to implement at all levels of the business, giving our team an experience that brings them a cut above the rest. Grant Thornton’s Level 4 Data Analyst Apprenticeship traineeship was perfect for Matthew, as it is specifically tailored to business travel rather than being a generic course. It allowed him to expand and develop his knowledge of data analysis, thereby boosting engagement, job satisfaction, and strengthening the in-house Data Analyst team. The hope is that this will allow ATPI to make better decisions, understand customer behaviour, increase revenues, identify inefficiencies, and allow us to stay competitive.”

Katie Blount, director of experience, Agiito

“As data analytics plays such a critical role in business travel, we want to make sure we continue to lead the way in a competitive TMC marketplace by optimising our data management. As data courses which focus on the intricacies of our industry are limited, this course is a great opportunity and we jumped at the chance to get involved. By enrolling our people on the BTA Data Skills Academy, it allows us to take advantage of the levy and is the perfect investment in both our people and the business. This investment not only shows our commitment to developing our people for their own career development, but how we can use their expertise to shape Agiito’s future data analytics strategy.”

What the apprentices say:

Martin Sandford Director, hotel solutions customer success, BCD Travel

“I believe that data, data-driven decisions and being part of a company that supports this is the way of the future. I was looking for an opportunity to hone my skills, so I jumped at the chance to join this course! Being able to communicate through data storytelling and visualisation is powerful. I’m looking forward to bringing back learnings to support and enhance my own work, the wider team and even broader business.”

Lisa Hornsby, supplier revenue manager, Gray Dawes Travel

“Studying with the BTA Skills Academy to achieve level 3 Data Citizen is enabling me to strengthen and expand my current knowledge and skills. The combination of working towards the qualification and the relevance to my job role means that every day, whether working or studying, is relevant to and supportive of the other. I’m excited to have been given this fantastic opportunity to develop my knowledge and skills. The content covered in just 3 weeks, is already helping me work more efficiently and with a much more knowledgeable perspective.”

Lone Konradsen, head of customer insight, Agiito

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to develop my skills around Big Data tools, data structure and management, and gaining a further qualification.”

Kerry Johnson-Sadler, data Manager, Agiito

“As there isn’t much data training available that is specific to our industry, taking this course is ideal for progressing in my career. This course offers the perfect fit, bridging some of the more technical gaps with the opportunity to look at things with a fresh mindset and becoming much more well-rounded in my knowledge. Data is often seen only from an analytical perspective, so it would be good to understand the entire data process. ”

● Leisure travel data academies start in November and Grant Thornton is inviting companies to hear more at briefing sessions in July, August and September. Email Sue Ledgard at

Picture: GaudiLab/Shutterstock

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