Training Top 10 Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives (Sept./Oct. 2020)

Each year Training magazine requires all Training Top 10 Hall of Famers to submit an Outstanding Training Initiative that we share with our readers. Here are the details of Booz Allen Hamilton’s Data Science 5K (DS5K) and KPMG LLP’s Continuous Learning on Tax Reform.

Booz Allen Hamilton: Data Science 5K (DS5K)

In early 2017, Booz Allen Hamilton realized it needed to make a commitment to data science—developing current employees to be the data scientists of tomorrow. In response, Booz Allen launched the Data Science 5K (DS5K) initiative with a goal of having 5,000 data scientists in its employ by 2020. The first step toward achieving this goal was to determine the right mix of external recruiting and internal upskilling efforts to bridge the data science talent gap. The firm decided to train 1,200 employees and hire hundreds of trained data scientists each of the three years to reach the 2020 goal. DS5K was an innovative approach to learning opportunities in the firm. The development team deliberately wove Booz Allen’s BE3 promise—Be You, Be Booz Allen, Be Empowered—into the program to deliver on the firm’s broader employee value proposition, enabling employees to learn without limits and develop the confidence to change the world.

To shape the program, Booz Allen researched data science training partners, electing to team up with General Assembly (GA) to develop Data Science 5K (DS5K) Fundamentals, a hands-on, 110-hour program that empowers students to build relevant, technical skills in machine learning, visualization, statistics, and data modeling. Participants learn how to:

  • Apply advanced analytics techniques to predict data
  • Parse and clean data
  • Create models using Python
  • Explore machine learning at a high level

Program Details

Employees interested in enrolling in the DS5K Fundamentals program initially complete two 30-minute assessments to establish their data science skills baseline. The first assessment tests data analysis skills, including statistics, spreadsheets, and databases. The second assessment tests data science skills, including programming, developer tools, and advanced math. Depending on their assessment score, participants are assigned up to 50 hours of self-paced, online pre-work across Excel, SQL, and Python to equip them with key skills prior to starting the program.

Once in the classroom, a blend of facilitated learning and hands-on participation teaches Python for Data Science, Exploratory Data Analysis, Data Modeling Foundations, and Machine Learning, resulting in development of analytical and data visualization skills. DS5K coursework culminates with a final capstone project that gives students an opportunity to apply what they learned to a problem of their own design and demonstrate mastery through a formal presentation to their leadership, proving they are well prepared to bring their newly acquired skills back to client projects. With this foundation of skills and knowledge, graduates have the choice to further advance their data science education.

After completion, graduates have opportunities for mentoring, networking, and building and sharing intellectual capital. Graduates also serve as mentors to follow-on cohorts, allowing for scaling to support resources. In addition, program graduates can continue their learning through curated, intermediate-level courses grouped by pathways in deep, machine, and analytics learning.

Interest in the course has been high, with students enrolling in four to six 25-person cohorts every three months. The development team also built a virtual learning platform using Zoom, WebEx, and Slack to enable virtual global cohorts. Since inception, the program has enrolled more than 1,200 participants.


As a result of the program, the business saw:

  • 93.5 percent of students rated highly proficient in data science upon completion
  • 65 percent of students have seen a positive impact on productivity
  • A 3 percent increase in billability
  • A 93 percent retention rate for graduates compared to 84 percent for non-graduates

KPMG LLP: Continuous Learning on Tax Reform

The passage of the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in December 2017 initiated the most sweeping changes to the U.S. Tax landscape in a generation. Equipping Tax partners and professionals to confidently and credibly address the implications of Tax Reform continues to be critical to the quality of the services KPMG LLP provides, to the new engagements it pursues, and to the brand of the firm.

Revised guidance has been issued over time, requiring the firm to create the habit of continuous learning, offering people both new formal training and new digital resources over time, and setting the expectation that all professionals should take accountability for using these resources to refresh their knowledge and skills.

Program Details

KPMG Business School (KBS), KPMG’s internal learning and development organization, worked collaboratively with KPMG Tax business leadership (up to and including the vice chair of Tax) on a learning response to Tax Reform that would achieve key performance indicators (KPIs), including:

  • Increased speed-to-competence of Tax professionals in applying the TCJA
  • Increased effectiveness in building the knowledge of KPMG clients on the impact of Tax Reform on their specific tax situation
  • Improved speed-to-market in helping position KPMG as the clear choice for advising clients on addressing the complexities of Tax Reform

Beginning with the passage of the TCJA and continuing throughout the course of fiscal year 2019, KPMG Tax professionals have attended in-person formal training on the impact of Tax Reform. As regulations and guidance from the U.S. government evolved, existing courses have been quickly revised and new courses have been created. Content was developed in close partnership with the Washington National Tax team (the firm’s internal authorities on Tax law) and KPMG’s Tax Knowledge Management team.

In 2019, Tax professionals earned more than 350,000 continuing professional education (CPE) credits for inperson and virtual classroom training—Tax Reform was a primary topic.

  • Core Tax Reform content was delivered through hundreds of classes held in national programs for all levels, helping ensure consistency of approach and information.
  • In addition, 118 courses were created for in-person delivery in local offices, reaching 1,839 professionals. Senior leaders in the Tax organization are regularly featured in Webcasts, videos, and other virtual learning resources, and Tax partners and professionals across the country serve as course facilitators.

The firm also provides professionals innovative resources accessible at the moment of need. These include:

  • A Tax Reform Compliance Toolbox that focuses on the practical issues Tax professionals must address in preparing tax returns. In FY’19, 2,100-plus unique users accessed the toolbox more than 12,000 times.
  • Actionable Content that guides users on identifying issues, considering what actions can/should be taken in response, and becoming aware of contacts and resources available for support. Postings included:

1. A 212-page Tax Act Booklet explaining and analyzing the myriad tax law changes enacted in the new law.

2. 37 Tax Insights and Sound Bite articles on Tax Reform topics authored by KPMG professionals and delivered by e-mail.

3. 21 videos on Tax Reform topics as part of a series featuring animated avatars of KPMG Tax leaders unpacking important issues. These videos generated 23,000 views in FY’19 alone.

To help improve access to current, relevant content, KPMG created an internal U.S. Tax Reform Website that has since been visited more than 34,833 times. It includes the Tax Reform Outline, curating more than 1,000 resources.

KPMG also offers a series of Webcasts to educate internal and external audiences on key facets of Tax Reform. These Webcasts reached 76,000 external participants in 2018 and another 36,000 in 2019.

Training also was a direct factor in the successful deployment of the International Tax Reform Analyzer (ITRA), a new tool for calculating tax impacts related to Tax Reform.


  • KPMG accelerated speed-to-competence: For example, more than 90 percent of Tax Partner Seminar participants indicated confidence in applying new Tax reform skills and knowledge after attending the program.
  • KPMG helped increase the knowledge of its clients: For example, Webcasts on Tax Reform have reached more than 100,000 clients over the last two years. Also, client usage of KPMG’s ITRA tool increased 237 percent between October 2018 and October 2019—the tool now serves more than 500 clients.
  • KPMG increased speed-to-market: New and updated resources have helped enable KPMG to win significant engagements with priority clients, including 142 Fortune 1000 companies and significant percentages of the Fortune 50 and Fortune 10.
Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.