‘In the face of automation, technology in the workplace is often seen as a threat.’ Vicki Sellick, Executive Director of Programmes at Nesta, sums up the prevailing attitude of the media towards Artificial Intelligence and other emerging technologies. However, Nesta’s own research shows that technology can be used to inform workers about the skills they will need in a rapidly changing job market, and deliver flexible, personalised training. Investing in tech will be good – not harmful – to UK jobs.
In light of this, DCMS has pledged to invest £18.5 million to drive up skills in AI and data science, and to support adults to upskill in these areas.
£13.5 million of this will go towards providing 2,500 people with the opportunity to retrain and upskill, introducing new degree and masters conversion courses over the next three years. As part of their plan to create a more diverse future workforce, the government has announced a series of scholarships for these courses, that will aim to support those under-represented in the tech industry. This includes women, minority ethnic groups, people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and those returning to work after a career break. After a report from Tech Nation in 2018 uncovered that only 19% of the tech workforce are women, support for this aspect of the tech sector is urgent and necessary.
In addition, £5 million has been pledged to encourage tech companies to develop solutions to improve the quality of online learning and retraining. The Adult Learning Technology Fund, in partnership with Nesta, will provide funding and expertise to firms who are looking to develop online training opportunities. Damian Hinds commented that ‘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 roof the online learning experience to ensure it better meets students needs.’
Companies across the UK tech sector already employ more than 2.1 million people and contribute £184 billion to the economy every year. Speaking ahead at CogX 2019, DCMS Secretary of State Jeremy Wright said: ‘The UK has a long-standing reputation for innovation, world-leading academic institutions and a business friendly environment and everyone, regardless of their background, should have the opportunity to build a successful career in our world leading tech sector. Through these new AI and Data Conversion courses and our modern Industrial Strategy, we are committed to working with the tech sector and academia to develop and maintain the best AI workforce in the world.’