• Emily Brine, Author |
  • Farhad Mordechai (Mordy) Sabeti, Author |
4 min read

When her performance manager asked if she would be interested in participating in a new data analytics upskilling program, Rebecca Tong didn't hesitate to raise her hand.

Rebecca, a Manager in the Enterprise Tax practice at KPMG, was drawn to the idea of investing in herself and developing a skillset that would have an immediate impact on her current role and future work. "I know that data analytics is an essential skill," she says, "and I felt that building it will help me better support my clients, be more efficient with my time when working with data, and to try to future-proof our team's skills."

This fall, Rebecca is among participants in KPMG's inaugural micro-credential program to upskill our practitioners in data analytics and visualization. In collaboration with Simon Fraser University's Beedie School of Business (SFU Beedie), this unique learning experience was co-created at KPMG to invest in our people's growth and meet the increasing demand for the crucial data literacy skills evident across virtually all industries.

KPMG had already been developing data literacy upskilling for several years, but the challenge was how to make an immersive, accredited and meaningful experience available to more people—and to be able to embed it into their work in an efficient yet manageable way. After many consultations, Nathan Walsh, KPMG's Senior Manager of Digital Learning, saw a chance to build a bespoke but scalable experience for learners. "There was a unique opportunity," he explains, "to connect the deep knowledge already within the firm—together with our existing relationship with SFU Beedie—to create a customized, credit-backed, short-cycle micro-credential."

A what?
We know: exactly what micro-credentials are is still the subject of much discussion. For us, this is a skill development program that is accredited and delivered in short portions, designed to be focused and manageable. "The 'micro' part refers to the bite-sized content that is online and focused on specific skill development," explains Andrew Gemino, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs at SFU Beedie. "The 'credential' refers to the fact that the learning is accredited by the university, and means that participants have demonstrated competency through completing an assessment to apply their skills in a context that is relevant to their work. The credential also provides a recognized verification of the skills and knowledge acquired through an accredited program."

To make this a reality for the people of KPMG, the data analytics and visualization curriculum was co-created by SFU Beedie instructors and KPMG subject matter experts across several functional teams. Together, they developed a course designed to be relevant and applicable to participants' functional roles, including a final case study to apply their skills in a work-integrated context.

How is this unique?
While participants learn within a 30-person cohort made up of peers with the guidance and support of a dedicated instructor, the micro-credential is built around flexibility to recognize the demands on participants' time. The self-paced online program is designed to be completed in 15-20 hours, paced over 6-8 weeks. "It's perfect," says Rebecca. "It works with my schedule, and I have the flexibility to go at my own pace but with the right amount of commitment to keep me moving."

Participants who complete the program, including passing the requisite assessments, receive one graduate-level credit, a certificate of completion and a digital credential from SFU Beedie and KPMG, which can then be applied against further study. This partnership is the first time SFU Beedie has offered a graduate-level, micro-learning program for credit, and a first among professional services firms in Canada.

In pairing the experience of a leading higher education institution with the perspective of learning professionals and subject matter experts at KPMG, this work-integrated upskilling opportunity is only the most recent instance of a standing partnership between SFU Beedie and KPMG. In 2018, KPMG launched Digital Academy to join forces with SFU Beedie, offering both a Graduate Certificate in Accounting with Digital Analytics and a Master of Science in Accounting with Cognitive Analytics to upskill and deepen knowledge in this critical area. The micro-credential program in data analytics and visualization was both inspired by and defined through the impact of Digital Academy.

What's next?
The incredibly positive response and interest in this new program has underscored the firm's ongoing commitment to supporting the growth of our people and creating pathways to opportunities.

"We're listening carefully to the needs of our people and their feedback from this program," says Nathan. "We want to make sure that, as the program grows, it continues to give our people the skills they need to deliver value to our clients." In addition to offering this opportunity to more participants, additional content areas also continue to be explored, including key development areas such as Environment, Sustainability, and Governance (ESG).

For her part, Rebecca tells us she can't wait. "I'm so excited to go through this program," she says, "and then to come back and share with my team what I've learned and done so we can all continue to apply these skills to our work."