Exeter College’s Stephen Mariadas is inspiring the next generation of data analysts to meet the skills needs of the 21st Century and helping to position Exeter as the centre of the UK’s data revolution.

In January 2019 Stephen was awarded a Technical Teaching Fellowship from the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) in partnership with the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.  One of three in the UK, fellowships are awarded to outstanding practitioners who are recognised for their high impact teaching practice and the delivery of effective outcomes for learners.

Stephen, who has worked for most of his career in the IT industry before switching to teaching, is passionate about making sure the Data Analytics apprentices not only get the best possible teaching, but during the course they can also apply their skills to real-world problems.  Knowing how to deal with the issues seen in organisations, rather than a textbook, is critical to delivering the Data Analysts of the future.

It is a very exciting time for the future of digital, engineering and manufacturing technology education across the South West, with the recent announcement that a new Institute of Technology will be established. The Exeter element of the bid will help part fund Exeter College’s plans for a new £10 million Digital and Data Hub on its Hele Road site.

Insight caught up with Stephen to learn more about his work.

I work closely with employers in our region to match our Data curriculum to their needs.  I also deliver on the Higher Level Data Analytics apprenticeship programme – in particular getting our learners qualified as Data Science associates (Dell EMC)

I had to complete an overview of the work I was doing with Data in the south west as an ‘expression of interest’.  Following a successful shortlisting completed a ten page application detailing what I had done and the differences it had made.  There was also a strong focus on what could be shared nationally as an exemplar.

I will spend approx. a day a week ensuring the best practises from what we do in Exeter are used as a model for others to follow.  We are at the forefront of delivering data skills to learners.  I will also use the time to expand the attraction of careers in data, visiting schools, careers fairs and building resources that can be used by others.

Success will be having a re-usable package of data activities that have been proven to inspire young people in the opportunities in working with data.  I would love to be able to share this at a national conference of peers in July 2020 to help build these skills, and have an impact, nationally.

The only way to make data ‘real’ is to have real-world problems from local employers.  Having SMEs from a broad range of industries – from healthcare to sports, retail to engineering – highlighting the issues they face will help sell this to as many young people as possible.  Learners that already have an idea of the type of industry and skills they want to head into in the future but don’t realise what data skills can do for them in their chosen direction.

The best days involve bringing a hot topic from the news and working on it with up to 18 students – letting them challenge current thinking based on the discoveries they can make from the data available – or having several learners from very different industries debate how processes and data work within their organisation.  The icing on the cake is visiting a new local employer and seeing them get excited when they realise what they could do with a new, or current, employee that has the latest skills in data.

Data Analytics is not about just working in technology – being able to talk through a company’s way of working and presenting and communicating a new way of working can be ground-breaking.  The work I do is heavily involved in real-world problems and being able to solve them together with the learners is incredible.

Being able to share what we are doing with a national conference of peers in July 2020 to help put Exeter and South West on the map.  I am also very excited about the opportunities the SW IoT will bring in being able to connect nationally with other centres of excellence.

The EDISC programme has been integral to driving data skills in our city – the backing of Oxygen House, Met Office, Exeter City Council, Exeter University and Exeter College has been fundamental in promoting Exeter as a world-class city for data.

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