Government pumps £23 million into AI re-skilling

14 February 2022 3 min. read

The UK Government has announced plans to boost diversity in digital jobs, with the launch of a new £23 million fund. The move will create 2,000 scholarships in AI and data science across England.

Labour shortages are currently holding multiple industries back as they try to recover from a turbulent last two years. Chief among these struggling sectors seems to be the IT and computing industry. With the IT sector seeing a strong increase in permanent vacancies, despite digital technology being at the heart of the national drive for economic recovery, the government has acted to help solve the skills gap.

Science Minister George Freeman commented, “It is essential that we continue to equip our workforce with the skills they need in this important technology, while also making the industry accessible to talented people from all backgrounds. That’s why today’s significant funding award is so important, which will see underrepresented groups trained up to build successful careers in AI, supporting the growth and diversity of AI in the UK.”

Government pumps £23 million into AI re-skilling

Up to £23 million in government funding has been earmarked to create two thousand scholarships for masters AI conversion courses. These are aimed at helping young people from underrepresented groups including women, black people and people with disabilities join the UK’s AI industry – helping source new talent for the industry in a tight labour market.

The government is also encouraging companies to play their part in creating a future pipeline of AI talent, by match-funding the AI scholarships for the conversion courses. Industry support could help even more people into the AI and data science job market quicker and strengthen their businesses.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy, Chris Philp, said, “Today we’re investing millions to ensure people from all parts of society can access the opportunities and benefits AI is creating in this country. We are doubling the number of AI scholarships previously available to underrepresented groups to build a diverse and inclusive workforce fit for the future of tech.”

Encouraging under-represented demographics to join the technology sector provides an obvious opportunity to close the diversity and digital skills gaps that the sector continues to grapple with. At present in the UK tech sector, only 19% of employees are from a working-class background, in contrast to 33.3% of the nationwide population.

Meanwhile, 66% of digital leaders in the UK currently finding it difficult to keep pace with change because they lack the talent they need.

Speaking on the new initiative, Nikolas Kairinos, CEO of professional services firm, said, “AI has long had a diversity problem, and while efforts have been made to close existing gaps, the outlook remains uninspiring. Greater action is needed so that workforces are created with equality in mind, particularly given the potential repercussions on our futures, with AI increasingly playing a greater role in our society.”

“Ultimately, the incentive must come from governments, and it’s fantastic to see the UK taking bold steps to create equal opportunities for those interested in plying their trade in AI.”