National Apprenticeship Week: Data science degree unearths new learning options

Ben and Carly

For National Apprenticeship Week, we are highlighting the work the University of South Wales does to support the growing number of students who choose to work while at the same time as studying for a degree

Carly Rees and Ben Psaila both work at the University of South Wales (USW), and both took the plunge two years ago and decided to undertake a degree apprenticeship in data science at the University. They have told us all about their experiences.

What is your previous work and education experience, and what do you do now?

Ben: “I have worked at the University for about six years, first in the Academic Registry and then in the Transformation Team, which manages large-scale projects. Prior to that I studied for a degree in Early Childhood Studies and then went to do my Masters in Education at Cardiff Met, and then came straight from there to work at USW. I’m currently a Transformation Business Partner – essentially the role is managing various change projects within at the University.”

Carly: “I did a degree in History and Psychology, then worked as a DSA Disability Needs Assessor before joining USW, as a Registry Assistant and working my way up to the role of Senior Quality and Partnerships Officer. I worked in the Quality and Academic Services department for five years, which I enjoyed, and then I fancied a change of role. I was doing the degree apprenticeship in Data Science at the time and a data role in the Faculty Support Team came up, so I decided it was time for a change and moved to that department.”

Why did you decide to apply for the degree apprenticeship in data science?

Ben: “Looking to the future, the way we work is going to change and learning new skills that can help me adapt to that is very useful.

“When I was in school the sort of things we are learning on the course were not on the curriculum, so I’d never learned them before, and this opportunity to learn new skills is very beneficial.

“It’s great to be challenging myself and doing something different because it's easy to get stuck in the same sort of routine each day. It keeps you fresh, on your toes.”

Carly: “A lot of what I do in my job is based around performance intelligence and data is being used more frequently across the higher education and quality assurance sectors now, so I thought Data Science would be a useful subject area to study.

“The degree covers project management, computer programming, statistics and data science, so it's really useful, and hopefully it’ll open up options for further development and promotion.”

How is the course and how do you think you will benefit?

Ben: “One of the good things on the course is mixing with other students who work for different businesses outside the University and building up a professional relationship with them. That networking might be really useful in future.

“In my role in Academic Registry it could be difficult at times identifying how it fits with your job, but that added an extra challenge to what we’re doing. However, most jobs now are going to be relevant to this in future so it’s good to have an understanding of how important data is.

Carly: “I'm genuinely enjoying it. I've surprised myself. I wasn't sure how I would cope with the balance between work and study, but it's been fine.

“I'm learning things that I maybe wouldn't have thought about learning myself - the coding element is particularly interesting and I think that'll be useful because companies are using (programming languages) Python and SQL more commonly for data analysis now.

“The lecturers are excellent and, because a lot of the content is recorded online, I can watch it back at my own pace, which is really handy if you’re working full-time too.”

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