Innovations That Inspire

Delta Analytics Academy

Recognition Year(s): 2024
School: J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University
Location: United States

Delta Air Lines and Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business co-developed a certificate program to remove barriers to career paths in analytics for Delta’s operational experts.

Call to Action

For those who don’t complete an undergraduate college education, the lack of a degree can loom as a barrier, blocking potential employment prospects. The Delta Analytics Academy provides frontline Delta employees with an opportunity to break into a field that was once inaccessible to them—an effort the Harvard Business Review dubbed “The New-Collar Workforce.”

The Delta Analytics Academy answers Delta’s ever-growing demand for talented analytics professionals who are able to anticipate and address the complex needs of internal customers throughout the organization. Who better to meet those needs than customer-facing, frontline employees? They are knowledgeable about the company and its daily challenges.

The Delta Analytics Academy was designed to benefit frontline operational experts. It provides career advancement opportunities for individuals in traditionally overlooked talent pools while supporting Delta’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Investing in a skills-first approach, Delta is both transforming how the company solves operational problems and building a talent base to serve future analytics teams. As the demands of Delta’s internal customers rise, analytics teams will receive a steady stream of loyal talent.

Delta Air Lines, Robinson College of Business, and Georgia State University have a broad and deep relationship. For example, more Delta employees have graduated from Georgia State than from any other university in the world. This rich connection served as the foundation for a new and innovative program.

Innovation Description

The Delta Analytics Academy is designed to enable learning, create career paths, and change lives. “Our frontline people are the operational experts, and they have a lot of hands-on experience managing the operation, which is something we cannot teach. When we add in formal education with Georgia State faculty and practical application working with Delta Analytics, we unlock the power to solve some of the most complex problems at Delta,” said Robin Mead, director of ops analytics at Delta Air Lines.

Launched officially in 2021, the academy is conducted virtually for the first 24 weeks of the program (12 weeks of in-class content with Georgia State, and 12 weeks of applying teachings to Delta-specific data and concepts). This arrangement allows students to remain in their full-time roles while building skills in such tools as Excel, Python, SQL, and Tableau.

Each week of the program was designed as a guided learning stack. The stacks are explicitly planned to create engaging and impactful virtual learning experiences, with components drawn from various online modalities—readings, videos, and discussion boards—sequenced throughout the week. The learning components build on each other, guided by the university’s belief that a virtual learning modality in isolation is not as effective as several in concert. After completing the coursework, each student participates in an immersive analytics internship.

Innovation Impact

The Delta Analytics Academy has driven innovation in the analytics field, delivered increased value in the community, and provided equitable access to education. To date, 100 percent of students from the program’s first cohort have obtained analytics roles at Delta Air Lines, while placements for the second and third cohorts are ongoing. Program graduates have been able to take the knowledge they gained at the academy and apply it to their new analyst roles in the company.

The analytics academy demonstrates how companies can benefit from partnering with business schools and investing in skills-based learning, allowing them to solve problems in a unique and innovative way. The academy has received significant attention from publications like Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, and more.

Though the Robinson College of Business was already the main alma mater of Delta Air Line’s employees, the partnership has only served to strengthen this relationship. In addition, students from the Delta Analytics Academy have the added benefit of being exposed to Georgia State University while receiving an empowering education.

Academy graduates have said that before experiencing the program, they felt “left behind” in life because of challenges related to socioeconomic status, education history, and more. Now, the Delta Analytics Academy is giving them a chance to move forward. Delta Air Lines and the Robinson College of Business offer support and equip students with the necessary tools to change their lives. These learners have been shown that the sky is the limit—and they are ready for takeoff.

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