How Becoming Data Literate Transformed Lisa's Efficiency as a Funding Specialist

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Tell me about your role as a Funding Specialist and your daily duties & responsibilities 

As a Funding Specialist, I make sure we have received all learner’s completion payments and look into any issues to resolve.

My daily duties include checking data and reports from the ESFA to make sure we have received the funding we are expecting for learners every month, and preparing reports for different departments within the business with funding information.

I identify the funding clawbacks we have had for leavers and break in learnings, working with finance to look at what funding we are accruing across the year, and what we have received to make sure we are predicting our income correctly.

How do you use data in your role? 

I use Excel for a lot of things, especially as a lot of the information I use from the ESFA comes in this format.

I also use our internal MIS database Sunesis which I export a lot of information from; software from the ESFA (PDSAT tool) to check data; and I will be using Tableau in the future to generate reports.

>> Take a look at our Level 3 Data Essentials apprenticeship programme <<

Why does someone in your role need to have essential data skills? 

Although I use Excel daily, I thought I could improve my skills and learn new things to improve how I am completing my role and improve accuracy and the time taken to complete tasks manually.

With the amount of data I look at, in various formats, it is great to have more skills to be able to do my day-to-day role, even just learning a simple formula can change things.

I think it is good to look at something from a different perspective and see if you can make any improvements to how you are doing you role as it may surprise you. It has certainly helped me make improvements so far!

Has your apprenticeship impacted your overall efficiency at work?

It has only been a few months so far, but I have been using formulas to blend data on spreadsheets together to take out manual checks which has saved time and accuracy.

I have been so inspired, thinking of other ways I can improve, I just need to learn how to do them next!

Download our Data Essentials Programme Outline

Programme Outline


This guide outlines everything you need to know about our Level 3 Data Essentials apprenticeship programme, including:

  • Role Overview
  • Training Components
  • Technical Training
  • Career Journey Timeline
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Which tools and techniques covered in the apprenticeship have been most beneficial to your role?

So far it has been learning Excel formulas, especially V & xlookup.

For me I think the most important thing is how to look at data differently and apply what I have learnt, even if it has taken me quite a few goes to understand and apply a formula, once I have gotten it to work it helps me improve what I can do within my role.

Can you share an example of how your apprenticeship has positively affected your role? 

I recently saved myself days of work by applying data blending to a recent task – I used data blending to get 2 spreadsheets to talk to each other.

I had hundreds of rows of data but I wanted to narrow it down to search for something specific, and I was able to apply an xlookup formula to look at the info that showed on both spreadsheets.

I was able to narrow it down to less than 100 rows to look at rather than manually checking everything which would have taken days to do.

How has the Data Essentials apprenticeship contributed to your technical skills development?

The training I have done so far has already improved my technical skills and helped me analyse data differently, I have massively improved my data visualisation.

I can create different graphs and I understand the tools I can use to help explain the data.

I have a clear understanding of why it is important to present the information for maximum impact (and so it is useful for the end user), I can collate data differently now and I am sure I will keep learning more skills I can apply as the apprenticeship continues.

How has the Data Essentials apprenticeship contributed to your overall skills development?  

The apprenticeship has had a big impact on me so far. It has changed the way I think about data, and how I approach my tasks, especially when you have done certain tasks for a long time (in some cases years) you get used to doing it the same way.

Since starting my Data Essentials apprenticeship I have changed the way I look at all the tasks I am doing to see how I can become more efficient. For example, I ask myself: can I automate this task instead of doing it manually?

The apprenticeship has also helped inspire me to come up with new and fresh ideas and consider reports I can create with what I am learning, the skills I have gained so far have saved me time, improved my accuracy, and given me time to think of how I can do more in my role, or improve reports I am currently working on.

How does data help drive success within your organisation?

Data helps drive success for our business as we have so much available information around us.

From a Funding perspective, we can utilise our data to check performance, forecast future earnings, and make sure we are receiving the funding we are entitled from the work completed.