A data science student placement scheme has weathered the Covid storm with more than 90 aspiring tech industry professionals gaining work in more geographically diverse locations across Scotland.

New data has shown that graduates on a government-funded masters placement programme for data and tech managed to secure positions with top firms in 2020/21 despite the pandemic.

And the evidence points towards more evenly distributed ‘remote’ working possibilities as budding data scientists secured roles outside of Edinburgh, Glasgow and the central belt.

The Data Lab MSc Placement programme, a joint initiative with Scotland’s MBN Academy, revealed that businesses hired talent in Inverness, Aberdeen, Stirling, Blairgowrie and Ayrshire.

And compared with the previous year when the number of placements topped the 100 mark, the latest figures show a consistently high demand, with only a marginal deficit attributable to the pandemic.

Bethany Rodgers-Rintoul, customer solutions strategist at MBN Solutions, said: “Traditionally, most placements are made in Edinburgh or Glasgow however, the requirements for remote work meant we were able to create new opportunities for smaller and more remote businesses from Inverness and Aberdeen to Stirling, Blairgowrie and Ayrshire, deepening the value added for students and the data science industries.  

“This is an exciting development for the programme, which was set up to address Scotland’s critical skills shortage by nurturing future talent, because it underlines how industry can collaborate and support the skills and experience on our doorstep at a time when remote working has fast tracked the globally-competitive marketplace.”  

The 2020/21 placements for students involved in data science, data engineering and analytics were made across 75 organisations, from large-scale enterprises to start-ups and SMEs.

Among the placements were mature students wanting to diversify or change their career paths. 

Stamatis Tiniakos became a software developer at Edinburgh-based Capita Consulting and participating in the MSc programme

Gillian Docherty, chief executive officer at The Data Lab, said: “We have been delighted by the support offered by many organisations to host a Masters placement and to offer the students a chance to put their new skills into practice on real world problems. The students have embraced the opportunity with many proceeding into permanent roles either in their placement organisation or with other organisations in Scotland.”  

Since The Data Lab and MBN Academy joined forces more than five years ago to help MSc students embark on data careers, more than 350 students from across Scotland have been partnered with leading organisations.

The Data Lab funds the MSc placement programme including tuition fees, allowing students from across the socio-economic spectrum to participate in the industry-wide placements. As part of the programme, MBN Academy provides employability and skills training to support students beyond their placements into their careers. 

The Scottish Funding Council are part funders of the Data Lab MSc Placement Programme and have also hosted several students themselves. 

Laura Hepburn, policy officer at Scottish Funding Council, said: “The MSc placement programme provides invaluable work experience and an opportunity for students to apply all the skills and knowledge they’ve been acquiring during their MSc to a real business project. 

“For organisations, we gain insight from bespoke analytical projects that we wouldn’t necessarily have time to do otherwise, and it allows us to keep up to date with what’s being taught in our universities which tends to be ahead of the curve of what’s being used in industry.”  

The MSc student placement programme is a collaboration between The Data Lab – a national innovation centre – and 12 Scottish universities, and in partnership with MBN Academy.  

Among supportive partners in the 2020/21 programme were Tesco Bank, NatWest, Royal London Group, Engine B, Filament, Sharktower, Efundamentals, Think Analytics, Leonardo, Trust Housing Association, Public Health Scotland, and the Scottish Government.