As part of its ongoing commitment to the digitalization of the economy, the EU states that “data-driven business models are the engine of Europe’s growth, industrial transformation and job creation.” The benefits are clear: businesses responding to smart data can improve products and services, thus generating economic growth while contributing to social progress. Yet, micro and SMEs, which make up 99% of businesses, still lag behind in digital technologies. If the economy is to flourish, micro and SMEs, must develop data skills or risk being uncompetitive.
There is an obstacle: today’s entrepreneurship teachers and trainers also face a data skills deficit. The majority entered the workforce before big data existed and there is currently no reliable source of training to help them boost their own skills. In our survey across 28 Local Enterprise Agencies in the Enterprise NI Network, 52% of business advisors said they were completely unaware of the range of data that is available and 70% rated their own knowledge of smart data as poor. (See full report appended).
To remedy this situation, Data SET will improve the quality and relevance of entrepreneurship education by improving the ability of VET and HEI policy makers and practitioners to understand, teach and develop smart data, thus providing business owners, early stage entrepreneurs and students with solid smart data skills training which they will use to help grow their businesses.
We will respond to these needs by pursuing the following objectives:
- develop and publish a Guide to Data Skills Development (IO1) to educate entrepreneurship trainers on the current state of data skills and skills building strategies
- create a smart data skills training model, comprising OERs (IO2) such as curriculum, trainers guide, lesson plans and suggested content and learning exercises
- train the first generation of Data SET Trainers (learning activity) and widely disseminate the OERs to encourage rapid integration of the training into current entrepreneurship and business support provision
- develop and promote an online Data SET course (IO3) to maximise access to the new training and reinforce classroom delivery.
Data SET will involve at least 60 entrepreneurship educators as participants in the testing of these outputs and we will organize a Train the Trainers Learning Activity in Denmark for 14 educators, who will return to their organizations ready to begin training SMEs and early stage entrepreneurs and students in smart data skills. At least 155 representatives of VET organizations providing entrepreneurship education and relevant stakeholders will participate in five multiplier events in Northern Ireland, Ireland, Spain, Denmark and Netherlands.
As tangible results of the project, we expect:
- 500 entrepreneurship education teachers and trainers download/receive the OERs and use them to understand smart data skills and have effective pedagogic strategies for teaching and assessing them.
- 80 entrepreneurship education organizations, principally in VET but also in HE sectors, commit to introducing smart data skills into their training programme either through direct classroom or small group delivery or by referring students to the online course.
- 30 stakeholder organizations value smart data skills as a key competence within the framework of VET and driver of economic growth and commit to exploring new ways to support and incentivise organizations who offer training
On completion, the project will have made it possible for current and future generations of entrepreneurs to access effective, practical training on generation, management and analysis of digital data as applied to their business model. The long-term result will be improved business growth and higher levels of digital competencies within the small business sector because they will be able to:
- craft and implement integrated data capture activities
- carry out data interpretation and analysis to gain insights into market opportunities, employee performance, revenue streams and customer behaviour and more
- adjust business strategies accordingly
Over the medium term this will manifest itself in improved growth in the local economy as businesses use data-driven insights to innovate, bring out new products and services, and increase productivity overall.
At national and EU level, we hope for a different impact: a prioritization of data skills education in the field of entrepreneurship education. For this to happen, first we increase in the number of policy makers and key decision makers who are aware of the potential impact of smart data in SME and entrepreneurial sector, and then show how data skills contribute directly – and in a very horizontal manner – to many of the skills already identified in EntreComp and DigComp.