Marks and Spencer has partnered with Decoded to create the world’s first Data Academy in retail, which is part of the retailer’s ongoing transformation to a digital-first organisation.

The Marks and Spencer Data Academy will take staff members from every function in the business, from store managers, visual merchandisers, finance and buying, the retailer said in a press release, and will create “a new raft of data skilled leaders to lead digital transformation across the business”.

In addition, the Marks and Spencer leadership team will do a Data Leadership programme, enabling them to “get hands-on” with technology such as machine learning and artificial intelligence with the aim of becoming the “most data-literate leadership team in retail”.

The retailer’s staff will be also offered the chance to enrol on The Data Fellowship, an 18 month in-work data science skills programme. Participants will learn to harness the most cutting-edge data analytics tools such as “R” and “Python” and adopt technologies such as machine learning. Learners will finish the programme with a Data Analytics qualification accredited by the British Computing Society.

The Data Fellowship is fully funded by the Apprenticeship Levy, the billion pound fund created by the Government to help upskill the UK workforce to be ready for the Future of Work.

Marks and Spencer chief executive officer, Steve Rowe said in a press statement: “This is our biggest digital investment in our people to date and the creation of the Marks and Spencer Data Academy will upskill colleagues and provide them with an in-depth level of digital literacy as well as a Data Analytics qualification.

“Transformation of our business is key to survival and a huge part of this lies with our colleagues. We need to change our digital behaviours, mindsets and our culture to make the business fit for the digital age and our partnership with Decoded will enable us to do this.”

Kathryn Parsons, founder of Decoded added: “We are proud to be working with one of the UK’s most iconic brands in retail and excited to be putting data literacy and skills in the hands of over 1,000 people. This is a pioneering and inspiring commitment to lifelong learning and future-facing skills. Every leader in business today should take note. Education is the answer to The Fourth Industrial Revolution.”