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Northern Ireland’s first robotics academy develops new skills

Tanya Telford is carving out a new career in the fast-moving field of robotics.

A former executive assistant, she was one of the first to enrol in our Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Data Visualisation Assured Skills Academy. Now working in consulting at Deloitte, she’s helping clients to understand just what robots can do.

“When I saw the advert for the robotics academy, I jumped at the chance,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in technology but didn’t study it at university, so to have an opportunity to retrain in such a new and exciting area, while learning core consulting skills, was amazing.”

Leading the way

With the rise of RPA – the use of software robots to automate repetitive processes – more clients are looking to us for solutions. The academy, which launched in January 2018, ensures a pipeline of specialist talent.

Based at Belfast Metropolitan College, the 11-week course is part of the Assured Skills Programme, an employment initiative funded by Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy (DfE). With no existing curriculum, we worked closely with the college and DfE to understand exactly what the market needed.

Colin Mounstephen, who leads the team, said, “The goal was not only to gain skilled recruits, but to provide graduates in Northern Ireland with the opportunity to build the skills, knowledge and experience needed to gain high-quality jobs in this in-demand area.”

More than 80 people applied for the first cohort, with 25 proving successful. 20 were later offered full-time positions at Deloitte. A second wave, run in February 2019, welcomed 21 students, with 17 securing roles. There are plans for a third course later in 2019.

“We’re leading the way,” Colin continued. “We have collaborated with Belfast Metropolitan College to train and retrain people from all backgrounds. Our Belfast team now has analysts who can deliver complex RPA solutions and we’ve begun to see the impact in a number of projects.”

Reaching out to Riyadh

The academy is creating opportunities and bridging the digital skills gap, but the benefits haven’t only been felt in Northern Ireland. It has helped forge links with colleagues in Saudi Arabia.

Jamie Mudge, manager in business operations explained, “We’ve been working with Deloitte Middle East for a while to help develop their RPA capability.” Jamie led the team which designed a bespoke RPA programme for a group of business analysts from our Middle East firm. They spent five weeks in Belfast in February 2019.

“It was a great way to complement the skills they already had and they got a lot from working with colleagues who had been through the academy,” says Jamie. “It was quite a step for us to host another member firm in this way and a really positive experience.”

“Technology transforms businesses,” Colin explains. “The academy has allowed us to be at the forefront of building RPA skills, which in turn is helping our clients realise the potential of automation. It’s something we’re pretty proud of.”

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