A guest blog by Anne Spackman, Non-Executive Director at Profusion.

Please decline the Latin…

I was recently a guinea pig for Profusion’s new data literacy tool. It forms part of a Data for Leaders programme launching early next year from the Profusion Data Academy.

If I’d done a similar assessment 15 years ago when becoming Editor-in-Chief of Times Digital, I would scarcely have reached the bottom rung of the knowledge ladder. Put in charge of a multi-million-pound digital project, I happened to be fluent in a couple of foreign languages, but spoke scarcely a word of tech: a wireframe was a basket for hens’ eggs.

This time was different. Sampling the first Data for Leaders’ sessions had introduced concepts like data lakes, SQL and the difference between data science and data engineering. (That’s important if you’re an HR Director working out who to hire.) Session questions to reinforce our learning, plus the literacy analysis tool, not only anchored the new language in my ageing memory, but revealed a lack of precision in some areas of understanding, which was equally valuable.

Britain is struggling with an acute shortage of data scientists, engineers, analysts and almost every other job role demanding technological expertise. At the same time, large numbers of capable workers in sectors like retail and finance have lost their jobs as the world turns increasingly digital. You can’t become a data scientist overnight, but you can apply for, say, an account manager, human resources or events role in the technology sector – if you understand what the business does.

The former Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, is campaigning for more Latin to be taught in state secondary schools. As a language graduate – though one who had to choose between Latin and German at school – I understand his motivation. But this doesn’t feel like the most urgent education issue of the day.

Even the digitally-native young are not experts in the language of artificial intelligence, machine learning and the data world which underpins both. Please can we have a campaign to teach tech, the most critical science and language of the early 21st century?

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