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05 April 2022

Exploring data through Virtual Work Experience

Suzanne Cray profile image
Written by

Suzanne Cray | Educational Consultant

Rachel Keane is the Founder and Chief Data Inspirer of the Data Inspiration Group.  She has been talking to CAS about their new programme, DigData, which brings real-life career challenges and inspiration to encourage students to consider a career in data.   

From a background in data recruitment to supporting industry and education in the data and analytics area, Rachel’s passion is supporting young people in finding a fulfilling career path, recognising the need for people with varying skills and strengths in data roles.   

By connecting students with relatable role models in the data industry, we can help dispel the myth that data careers are only for those with a maths or STEM background. A truly successful data and analytics team is filled with diverse individuals possessing many different talents  

(Rachel Keane, Chief Data Inspirer, Data Inspiration Group) 



What is the programme? 

Young people aged 12 to university level can take part in free online career challenges to develop their skills and knowledge.  These challenges connect students with data champions from leading brands such as CACI, Facebook, Capital One and BT to work on real life problems which can be addressed using the power of data.  Each challenge is launched with an online briefing from DigData and the data champions where they describe the question, the data set and expectations.  Students are sent everything they need the following day.  They are given one week to complete the challenge and submit their results in their preferred medium.   

These challenges form a series of progressive ‘Steps’ for students aged 12 and upwards: 

  • Awareness (Years 7-9);  
  • Knowledge (years 10-13 + FE);  
  • Skills (University +HE)  

These steps ensure that students can all explore different aspects of an industry partner’s data.   

Previous challenges have ranged from choosing which celebrity to switch on the Christmas lights in a shopping centre, to suggesting where a major sportswear brand should launch their latest sustainable range. 

After completing the challenge, students are sent an inspirational and supportive video which explains how the company addressed the problem and their solution. They also receive a DigData certificate recognising their achievements in that challenge.  As a bonus, sometimes students will receive swag and merchandise from the partners too. 

Students can complete multiple challenges over time, providing the opportunity to develop their awareness, knowledge and skills to meet the needs of this industry. 

The experiences are designed to give students a positive, supported experience of working with businesses and using data in a real-life context, showing how the use of data can be fun, creative and relevant. 


Why is this needed? 

It has been widely reported that there’s a national skills shortage in digital skills, in particular the recruitment of data professionals, especially as demand for such roles has tripled in the last five years.  Specialist and impartial careers support in schools is inconsistent and students often find it hard to see the relevance of data, statistics and analysis when they are in the classroom. 

Data is used throughout our lives to provide information, products and services in all sectors.   The government has recognised the need to prepare for a data-rich career, and yet we need far more than just data analysts so that we can use, interpret and communicate what we find in data.  

Programmes that bring together industry and education help to break down the barriers between academia and the workplace, providing a springboard for students to see where their learning and skills can be used in the future.   

DigData has ensured that each challenge meets the Gatsby Benchmarks for good career guidance.  The live online career challenges provide: 

  • encounters with employers and employees; 
  • virtual work experience; 
  • links between curriculum learning and careers; and 
  • some personal guidance and career information for young people. 

There are opportunities for schools to develop cross-curricular links including maths, computing, geography and more, so that students begin to experience a context-driven joined-up approach to learning and careers.   

Schools will be able to engage with this program further by accessing a free Career Challenge classroom resource (available soon) for teachers, as well as live online career and education panels:  

  • Classroom resources include guided tutor-taster sessions which prompt discussion and linking careers with subject areas.   
  • Students and teachers can hear directly from data champions in industry at online career panels where they can talk about their journey, ‘a day in the life’, role requirements and opportunities available. 
  • ‘Get Inspired’ on the DigData website contains short videos linking various careers and industries with data, providing a useful starting point. 

Join us on Tuesday 26th April 

We’re excited to be hosting an event on Tuesday 26th April where Rachel and partner representatives from BT, Capital One and CACI will talk about and discuss the upcoming challenges and you can ask questions about the programme. 

Book your free place:  

For more inspiration for you and your students, and to register, go to



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Tim Wilson
08/04/2022 09:00

We have a brand new blog and event coming up on the amazing Virtual Work Experience programme, DigData. We’re delighted to be working with the fabulous Rachel Keane, Founder and Chief Data Inspirer of the Data Inspiration Group to run an event all about the programme on 26th May here:

In the meantime, check out Suzanne’s chat with Rachel on our blog here: Exploring data through Virtual Work Experience.

We’d love to hear from you. Are you involved in this programme? Are there other (virtual) work experience programmes that you have been involved in and would like to talk about?

Please let us know.

We look forward to seeing you at the event on 26th.