BCX invests R50m in data science academy - TechCentral

BCX invests R50m in data science academy

Telkom’s IT services business, BCX (formerly Business Connexion), has invested R50m in a new data science training academy, which plans to create 300 year-long internships over the next three years.

The investment in the Explore Data Science Academy is to cater for growing demand for big data analytics skills in South Africa. Demand “far exceeds” current supply, according to the academy.

BCX will sponsor 300 interns over the next three year and “future-proof” executives in these scarce skills through additional courses.

Kicking off the initiative is the announcement of 100 free internships to successful applicants of the academy’s one-year accredited skills data science programme, commencing in January 2018.

These internships will be fully sponsored by BCX, which has come on board as founder partner of the academy for the next three years.

There are no restrictions to entry for the one-year course, nor are formal qualifications required. Applicants should be between 17 and 35 and must pass a “challenging aptitude test” on the academy’s website.

The Explore Data Science Academy was created by Shaun Dippnall, Dave Strugnell and Aidan Helmbold, all data scientists with actuarial qualifications and experience in lecturing, research and consulting.

Strugnell was former head of the University of Cape Town’s division of actuarial science. Dippnall was previously an actuarial lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, but more recently served as both a chief actuary and chief data scientist at a number of big companies. Both Helmbold and Strugnell have also held executive positions in their roles as actuaries and data scientists.

‘Practical application’

Equivalent university programmes, such as a master’s in data science, come at a significant cost to students, which prevent many people from applying, the founders said in a statement. “They also tend to focus on theory rather than practical application.”

The course, which will be held at the academy’s premises in the Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town, leverages the latest in data science and artificial intelligence research, they said.

The academy will be designated as a Seta-accredited skills programme, with the expectation that it will receive accreditation by the end of the year.

“The acceleration of the digital economy means that every industry will need data science skills,” said Strugnell. “There is an estimated global shortfall in data scientists of two million people. Likewise, there is huge demand for these skills within corporate South Africa.”

The team aims to complete the recruitment of the first 100 interns by 31 October 2017.

While prior education and exposure to mathematics and computing will be an advantage, applicants will be selected primarily on their ability to complete the online aptitude test.

“Anyone from any background with an aptitude for mathematics, statistics, problem solving and analytics may qualify for the course,” said Dippnall.

Successful candidates will spend the year between the classroom, on-the-job training and team-based project work.

“We designed a course that closely mirrors the demands of the workplace. Included in the curriculum are tools such as Python, Tableau, SQL and Scikit-learn, which are routinely required when building data-science applications. We have also added job immersion and self-paced project work, which both involve team dynamics and interaction,” Dippnall said.

Stipends are available to cover the living expenses of successful candidates who are in financial need. — (c) 2017 NewsCentral Media