In 2020, DuPont began an ambitious plan to increase digital knowledge across the company: it founded an internal school called the Spark Digital Academy. The new program was designed not only to increase the company’s agility and effectiveness, but also to help upskill its workforce—a much-needed fix due to the persistent shortage of job seekers with technical skills.
The Innovation Research Interchange (the NAM’s innovation division) recently produced a case study of DuPont’s academy. Here are some of the key points for manufacturing leaders.
What it does: The new digital academy covers a whole host of digital skills, from data analytics to augmented reality to digital leadership. It offers both instructor-led and self-paced courses, while focusing on project-based learning and peer collaborations.
- According to Digital Technology Leader Hai Zhu, the academy seeks to train both “citizen data scientists” and “translators”—i.e., both employees who can apply digital expertise to their own roles, and those who want to apply digital principles to all sorts of problems, whether in business, science or engineering.
- The program also has another selling point: it trains top executives in these skills as well. Not only are DuPont executives advocates of digital advancement, but they are also learning how to implement it in their own jobs.
Course offerings: The program follows a policy of “70:20:10.” Seventy percent of students’ education comprises project-based activities related to the job, while 20% is self-paced (though enriched by discussion boards and online communities) and 10% is in a traditional classroom setting.
- “There is a foundational course for data science, and then there is an advanced course for data science. Employees take them in series. They are two-week courses, and we typically require students to bring a project with them to do in parallel. We want you to apply what you learn immediately, so you don’t forget,” explained DuPont Information and Data Science Leader Duncan Coffey.
What’s next? The academy is continuing to add content in popular areas and working to build out its peer learning options and digital infrastructure.
- It has created a mentorship program for graduates of its robotics process automation course, while also developing a data science portal, shared online workspaces and other resources that will help graduates do advanced work.
Learn more: DuPont has drawn a number of useful lessons from its development of this academy, which can benefit other manufacturers looking to develop their internal talent and strengthen their digital capabilities. Check out the IRI case study for more insights.
Get involved: Want to learn more about Spark Digital Academy and other innovations in workforce development, supply chains, sustainability and more? Come to the IRI’s annual conference in Philadelphia on May 22–25.