Launched in 2021, NOW Group’s Digital Academy was devised as a digital inclusion programme that would help bridge the skills and diversity gap within the digital sector by delivering qualifications in data analytics and providing participants with an opportunity to undertake work placements with leading employers.

After undertaking 12 weeks of training in data analytics, Danske Bank hosted three participants – Thomas, Thomas and Mark – who spent a further 12 weeks working primarily with the bank’s data team, putting their education into practice and developing their skills in data analytics and visualisation whilst getting hands on experience using systems such as Tableau and Alteryx.

To mark the completion of the placements Danske recently hosted a graduation event at its headquarters, attended by Danske’s Deputy CEO Stephen Matchett, Chief Information Officer Liam Curran, members of the NOW Group’s employment team, and colleagues from the bank’s Technology & Digital Development department.

Analytics Engineer Michelle McNicholl was one of those colleagues. Michelle mentored the three Academy placement students, bringing her own experience from participating in Danske’s internal IT apprenticeship scheme, combining study at Belfast Met one day a week with her role in the data team. She said:

“Facilitating the placements has been a real team effort, from colleagues across the bank presenting on different topics, to our IT team facilitating time each week for one of our placement students who developed an interest in that side of our operations. It’s been great to work with Thomas, Thomas and Mark develop their skills whilst gaining hands on experience in our team. We’ve seen them gain confidence in both their work and their interpersonal skills along the way, and hope they leave us better equipped with the skills needed to transition into a potential career in the digital sector.”

Sean Hanna, Programme Manager at NOW Group, added:

“We know that businesses across Northern Ireland need staff with digital experience. Our academy is specifically targeting people with disabilities who don’t always feel that they fit in in mainstream provision but provide a valuable service in entry level digital positions. NOW Group works with businesses like Danske Bank to help them understand the value of having a neurodiverse workforce and the competitive advantages this brings. We are delighted that Danske Bank funded and participated in this important programme and provided our participants with an invaluable work experience that will support them to gain a digital job with a future.”

Stephen Matchett, Deputy CEO, is the founder and senior sponsor of the bank’s disability network, Enable, and passionate about inclusive employment. He said:

“We see diversity as a strength, and we want to play our part in changing mind-sets by bringing more diverse skills into the workplace and sharing our experience that diversity is good for colleagues and good for business.

“A strong partnership approach is key, and we’ve developed excellent relationships with the NOW Group as well as other organisations to help to create pathways into roles in our data analytics, automation, mortgage support and branch teams. Each partnership and each placement brings new learnings and insights for us as an employer and as individuals and colleagues. There’s a saying that ‘people who see the world differently are the ones who can see things we never do’ and that has certainly been our experience at Danske Bank.”

The Digital Academy is sponsored by Danske Bank and Leaf IT and is the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland.