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Microsoft announces digital skills bootcamps to create a new generation of female data scientists

Free courses that teach women digital skills so they can get a job in the technology sector are being run across the UK by Microsoft and its partners.

The bootcamps, announced on Friday as part of International Women’s Day, are aimed at making the sector accessible for women who have taken a career break or looking at moving into a new role.

The Microsoft Professional Programme in Data Science will teach the basics of the subject, which particularly suffers with a gender imbalance, before participants continue their studies at home via the internet. Those who complete the other nine courses, which must be paid for, can apply for certificates that can be used to further their career.

Cindy Rose, Chief Executive of Microsoft UK, said: “Microsoft has a strong mission to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more. That puts diversity and inclusion at the heart of what we do and who we are. For International Women’s Day, we are reaching out to women across the UK who want to empower themselves by acquiring new digital skills but may be unsure where to begin.

Close-up of graph and bar charts on paper

Data scientists study large amounts of information in an organisation and communicate it to leaders who can act upon it

“The women who will change the world tomorrow must start learning digital skills today. We want more women from a range of diverse backgrounds and abilities to be inspired by a potential career in technology that requires an understanding that it’s not only open to them but can help them achieve their goals, whatever they may be.”

Data scientists study large amounts of information in an organisation and communicate it to leaders who can act upon it. There is growing demand for the role in companies in almost every industry, as bosses seek to understand more about their operations and customers. It is estimated that more than 500,000 highly skilled workers will be needed to fill digital roles by 2022. That figure is three times the number of UK computer science graduates that the UK has produced over the past 10 years, and only 5% of that total has been female. Just 26% of data professionals are women, according to software company Better Buys.

Microsoft and eight of its partners are running bootcamps in areas including London, Manchester, Scotland and Wales to address the low numbers of women working in the technology sector.

One of those partners is IT and business consultancy BJSS, who will be running bootcamps in London and Nottingham with female members of its data science team. Henry Brown, the company’s Head of Data and Analytics, said: “We are delighted to be working with Microsoft to run these bootcamps. Diversity is something we are passionate about, and it’s important for our business that we have a range of views, skills and talents from different backgrounds in our workforce.

“We have many talented female data scientists at BJSS and we want to show women that this is a viable and fulfilling career option for them.”

Kainos, Microsoft’s UK Partner of the Year is also taking part, and will be looking to hire some of the women who attend its bootcamp in Birmingham.

Kathryn Gilchrist, Recruitment Manager for Kainos, said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Microsoft and are looking forward to welcoming women who want to learn new skills and start building a career in the technology sector. We want to bring women from a range of backgrounds together and give them an insight into data science and engineering, which suffer from a shortage of female employees. ‘’

“We need to move the dial on getting more women into the tech sector, and that starts with having a passion for learning and trying something new.”

The other partners are Amido, ANS Group, DevOpsGroup, DSP, Grey Matter and Incremental Group. Participants should visit Microsoft’s official registration page to sign up to a bootcamp and must take a laptop with them to the course. The courses, which will cover topics such as Excel, will all be held on May 2.

The bootcamps are just one initiative Microsoft is helping to run in the UK to mark International Women’s Day. The company is also encouraging its employees to run digital skills workshops in schools, and working with the Department for Work and Pensions to teach Job Centre staff LinkedIn skills.