CDOs: Are you leveraging your Apprenticeship Levy to achieve data literacy?

The demand for data literacy

Company-wide data literacy is a critical – often overlooked – component of any digital transformation strategy. Does finding the resources to train hundreds of employees in essential data analytics skills seem like a pipedream? Using your organisation’s Apprenticeship Levy could be the answer. 

Chief Data and Analytics Officers at some of the UK’s largest employers are working with their L&D colleagues to build highly effective data skills academies, fully funded by the Apprenticeship Levy. In this article, we take a look at what constitutes an apprenticeship, what funds are available, and tips on how to influence your organisation to invest that money in digital reskilling and upskilling. 


Why are apprenticeships the ideal way to build data literacy?

An apprentice can be any age, any background and at any level in their career. What makes them an apprentice is that, in addition to working, they are undertaking a recognised package of productivity-enhancing training and accompanying study that gives them new vocational skills that employers recognise as valuable. 

An increasing number of mid-career, experienced professionals are benefitting from Levy-funded courses, typically lasting 12-18 months, that enable them to learn new business-critical skills to help them navigate the changing demands of their roles and industries. While apprenticeships will continue to be a valuable way to recruit new talent into the business, the average age of a Corndel apprentice is 36 – demonstrating that this is a skills budget that can be used across your existing workforce. 

Corndel Apprentice: Julien Foure, Treasury Trader, bp

Julien is responsible for FX swaps execution and trading. He has over ten years’ experience as a Corporate Treasurer. Julien holds a master’s degree in Finance from the Institut de Gestion de Rennes, a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration and Management, and a Diploma of Higher Education in mathematics and computer science.

“The Corndel Data Analytics programme matches my objective and is helping me to be more innovative and to make data-driven decisions faster.”
Corndel apprentice: Alex Armstrong, Strategic Portfolio Underwriter, LV= General Insurance (LV= GI)

Alex’s role involves working with a number of different sources of data and monitoring standard insurance KPIs such as loss ratios and gross written premiums. “What would have taken a couple of weeks, I can now do instantly. Not only that, but by doing it myself, I have a greater understanding of what the data entails. I can control the variables within the data extraction and re-analyse the new data set."

How does the Apprenticeship Levy work?

In the UK, we have an ace up our sleeves. In 2017, the UK government launched a financial initiative to encourage employers to direct more investment in their workforce. The apprenticeship levy, paid by companies with a pay bill exceeding £3 million, serves as a proven and underexploited instrument for facilitating successful business transformations.

Despite the powerful potential of the levy, reports suggest that employers are only spending around 47% of their levy on average. Unspent levy funding is lost to organisations, and it exists in a “use or lose it” situation. Employers have 24 months to spend the levy before it is given over to the HMRC. An unused levy is a missed opportunity, especially when it gives you the chance to get more from your business transformations.

The Apprenticeship Levy funding allows for the development of forward-thinking and agile initiatives that are purpose-designed with the right skills in mind for facilitating successful business transformations. The programmes you access can focus on the key challenges within your organisation such as equipping future leaders, tackling data skills gaps and building digital literacy. If they use it wisely, employers can create talent development programmes across their businesses which will help to close that persistent productivity gap. This is proving to be particularly valuable in supporting companies close the digital skills gap. 

Why do so many businesses have ‘unspent funds’ in their Apprenticeship Levy accounts?

Rather shockingly, more than a quarter of firms (26%) are simply absorbing the Levy as a business cost; underspending the funds they are obliged to continue to pay. While a growing number of businesses (28%) have created dedicated teams to deliver apprenticeships, the CBI report finds that ‘businesses are still finding managing the Levy system and navigating its processes to be complex.’ 

Expert training providers are highly experienced in setting up apprenticeship programmes in a matter of weeks, taking on the heavy lifting around set up and enrolment, guiding L&D teams through the process and supporting learners, their line managers and employers throughout. By partnering with the right provider, the learning can be implemented almost immediately, and the benefits of new skills, knowledge and behaviours cascade through the organisation.   

Richard Head, Head of Digital Analytics, Johnson Matthey 

“We are very excited to have launched the Data Analytics Diploma with Corndel. We’re building a data-driven culture at Johnson Matthey and this programme is a fantastic opportunity to develop data skills across the business.”

Can my organisation’s Apprenticeship Levy can be used to build data literacy, at scale?

Without the skills needed to better understand, interpret and use the data in your business, your digital transformation strategy can only get so far. CDO/CDAOs should check in with Talent and HR colleagues, asking: 

  • Do we provide a streamlined suite of professional development opportunities for employees with different data needs? 
  • Which of the following data skills apprenticeships are currently available for our employees? 
    • Data Professional (Level 3) 
    • Data Analyst (Level 4) 
    • Data Scientist (Integrated Degree) (Level 6) 


Building a data-driven culture was an important strategic objective for luxury retailer, YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP. They knew that the critical success factor for delivering on that data transformation strategy would be to make sure their people acquired the confidence to collate, prepare and analyse large amounts of data and build predictive tools to inform business decisions. Their Chief Data & Analytics Officer​ worked closely with her L&D colleagues to explore which data skills they needed their people to have. They were then able to source a training programme that would lead to practical application and a bottom-up approach to making data-informed decision making a reality. They decided to use their Apprenticeship Levy to fund the programme and are expecting their first Corndel Data Analytics Diploma (Level 4) graduates to complete the 18-month programme in May 2021. 

The impact so far: 

“The monthly reviews for our channel now go much deeper than they used to, and the valuable insight has caught the attention of senior leaders.” Olivia Tildesley, CRM Content Marketing Executive. 

“I am delighted to hear about the great work our Data Analytics apprentices are doing and how new data skills are already being put into practice.” Alessia Kosagowsky , Chief Data and Analytics Officer, Yoox Net-A-Porter Group 

Exploring levy-funded data programmes

If you are interested in discussing this further with Corndel’s data science experts, explore our programmes below. 

We have a proven track record in setting up successful Data Professionals and Data Analytics apprenticeship diplomas for many large companies, including Société Générale, bp, Asda, Capita, The Adecco Group and Johnson Matthey. We would be delighted to help you meet your organisations 2023’s digital transformation objectives.