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Marks and Spencer partners with Decoded to launch ‘Data Academy’ for staff

Marks and Spencer has announced it has partnered with technology specialists Decoded to create the world’s first ‘Data Academy’ in retail.

The launch of the new academy is part of the ongoing transformation of M&S, as it aims to place “digital at the heart of its business”. The M&S Data Academy will see over 1,000 staff from every aspect of the business – from store managers and visual merchandisers to finance and buying – take part within the first 18 months.

Participants at the academy will learn how to use data analytics tools such as “R” and “Python”, and adopt technologies such as machine learning. Learners will finish the programme with a data analytics qualification accredited by the British Computing Society.

M&S also said that its leadership team will embark on a Data Leadership programme, enabling them to get hands-on with technology such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.

M&S said that it hopes to eventually have the most “data-literate leadership team in retail”. The academy is fully funded by the Apprenticeship Levy, a billion-pound fund created by the government to help upskill the UK workforce.

Steve Rowe, chief executive M&S, said: “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.

“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.”

Kathryn Parsons, founder of Decoded, 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. Education is the answer to The Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

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