SAS STEP: Free online training addresses gender imbalance in tech

Nearly half of participants are female compared to around 25% industry average

A free digital learning programme launched last year by analytics leader SAS continues to offer to a vital opportunity for jobseekers across the UK and Ireland to acquire much sought-after data skills, with the aim of finding them employment. Nearly half (45%) of participants in the SAS STEP Programme to date are female – despite women only making up around 20-30% of the UK’s workforce in data science or data analyst roles[1].

The scale of the data skills gap in the UK was made clear in a government paper[2] last year, which revealed that UK businesses were recruiting for more than 200,000 roles requiring hard data skills, yet university graduates will barely provide 10,000 data scientists a year to fill these positions. It means a key part of the challenge being faced is upskilling the existing workforce and encouraging more women into this field.

The SAS STEP Programme is primarily aimed at those seeking employment or facing redundancy but is also open to anyone looking to make themselves more employable, including graduates, the self-employed, or those already in employment. The impact of the award-winning programme has been captured in a new report ‘Making Data Work For You which sets out some of its successes to date, key partnerships and includes input from industry experts.

The UK Government has placed data skills at the centre of industrial policy in recognition of the importance to post-pandemic economic recovery. Initiatives like the National AI Strategy place great emphasis on the need for development of data and technical skills.

Alex Burghart, Minister for Skills, said: “I am delighted to see how the SAS STEP Progamme is supporting people to access crucial data skills for free, so they can progress into good jobs.

“It is vital that everyone has the opportunity to learn the skills they need to succeed in rewarding careers, and that employers have access to the high-quality talent pipeline they need for the future, and to fill the skills gaps in key sectors.”

Many participants in STEP were already in the workplace or had careers outside of data, such as Nihan Baker, who has a Master’s in Architectural Design. She said: “I think the course was very well laid out and easy for people to learn in their own time. It provides a good understanding of what data is, the different terminology and insights into how data is used in our everyday lives.

“It’s important for people in lots of different roles as we are normally either producing data or using data. Understanding different applications of data will certainly help you in terms of your employability. I would definitely recommend this course to others.”

Roderick Crawford, VP & Country Manager, SAS UK & Ireland, said: “What’s great about STEP is the breadth of the offering, as the data literacy pathway is open to virtually anyone, regardless of their qualifications and experience. There are also Data Analyst and Data Science courses, with a fourth – Data Engineering – due to be added shortly.

“While we’re delighted with the success of the programme to date as captured in this new report, we recognise there is still a long way to go to bridge the skills gap. I’m delighted we’ve attracted a high proportion of women as this can only help in a sector where they are still under-represented.”

You can find out more about the SAS STEP programme at

[2] Quantifying the UK Data Skills Gap – Full report

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