£18.5m to boost diversity in AI tech roles and innovation

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The technology sector is set to benefit from a £18.5 million cash injection to drive up skills in AI and data science and support more adults to upskill and retrain to progress in their careers or find new employment.

Up to 2,500 people will have the opportunity to retrain and become experts in data science and artificial intelligence (AI), thanks to a £13.5m investment to fund new degree and Masters conversion courses and scholarships at UK academic institutions over the next three years.

£5 million is also being invested to encourage technology companies to develop solutions, utilising AI and automation, to improve the quality of online learning for adults. The Adult Learning Technology Innovation Fund, which will be launched in partnership with innovation foundation Nesta, will provide funding and expertise to incentivise tech firms to harness new technologies to develop bespoke, flexible, inclusive, and engaging online training opportunities to support more people into skilled employment.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “Artificial Intelligence and other new technologies are transforming the way we live and work and have the potential to radically improve online learning and training, so more people can get the skills they need.

“We all have busy lives, juggling work and family commitments so online courses are a great way for‎ more people to retrain or upskill and secure a rewarding career. Investing in cutting edge technologies such as AI will mean we can future proof the online learning experience and ensure it better meets students’ needs.

Technologies developed under the Adult Learning Technology Innovation Fund will help inform the Government’s National Retraining Scheme (NRS). The NRS aims to upskill individuals in the UK most at risk of redundancy with the knowledge they need to progress in work, secure better employment, and redirect their careers.

Vicki Sellick, Executive Director of Programmes at Nesta said: “In the face of automation, technology in the workplace is often portrayed as a threat. Yet Nesta's own research shows technology could be used to inform workers about the skills they will need in a rapidly changing job market, and deliver flexible, personalised training.

“Technology, such as AI, has huge potential to provide insights on local labour markets and give workers appropriate advice, guidance and learning opportunities. We're delighted to be adding resources from our own endowment to partner with DfE to ensure technology is being used to support workers to upskill and re-skill for the jobs of the future.”

Potential applicants to the AI and Data Conversion courses will hold a degree in other disciplines, and scholarships will be made available to support applications from diverse backgrounds. This could include people returning to work after a career break and looking to retrain in a new profession, under-represented groups in the AI and digital workforce, including women and people from minority ethnic backgrounds, or lower socio-economic backgrounds.