To celebrate International Data Protection Day (28th Jan), information rights training provider, Freevacy, is launching the first-of-its-kind scholarship fund, which will see over £20,000 worth of training awarded to successful candidates. The Joyce Allen Privacy Champion BCS Scholarship is designed to entice new entrants to the field which is experiencing a dramatic privacy skills shortage. The closing date for applications is 31 August 2023. Freevacy will develop a shortlist and award recipients throughout the year up to this date.

Freevacy’s scholarship scheme will pay for 20 course applicants to study for their Foundation Certificate in Data Protection from the professional body, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. At the end of the course, which normally costs £1095, trainees will hold a recognised industry qualification which could one day lead to a full-time career in privacy.

Freevacy advocates a ‘privacy champion’ approach and believes embedding privacy champions within businesses will relieve the pressure on core privacy teams. The privacy champion approach involves cross-training existing employees in data protection, allowing them to take on additional privacy responsibilities without leaving their roles.

While privacy teams are getting larger, organisations are facing increasing challenges to identify, recruit and retain the experienced and qualified data protection practitioners needed to meet today's evolving privacy demands in order to deliver on compliance.

Adequately resourced privacy teams support the development of a mature privacy programme. In turn, this enables organisations to experience fewer data breaches and avoid reputational damage while at the same time limiting regulatory oversight and monetary penalties. Furthermore, it allows businesses to use data more broadly, creating a competitive advantage and building consumer and stakeholder trust.

The advantages of operating a decentralised privacy management structure are twofold.

Privacy champions, who promote the privacy programme from within their team or department, are better placed to support business owners in meeting data protection responsibilities within the scope of their operations. This additional capacity within the business relieves pressure on compliance teams allowing them to focus on systematic and consistent improvements in privacy programme maturity.

Developing a network of privacy champions creates a pool of multi-skilled professionals who, with additional training and development, could make suitable candidates for full-time privacy roles as and when they become available.