UK makes significant investment to boost digital skills

UK makes significant investment to boost digital skills

For the next three years, £13 million will be made available to boost digital skills by increasing the number of eligible students in artificial intelligence (AI) and data science engineering.

The Office for Students (OfS) is launching today a competition that encourages universities and other higher education providers to develop and implement postgraduate transfer courses that will draw at least 2,500 students by 2023 with the aims to boost digital skills.

Such creative and versatile transition courses will easily convert students – who may have originally studied non-STEM disciplines – to artificial intelligence and data science and promote a more diverse workforce.

The funding provided by OfS on behalf of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Office for Artificial Intelligence (OAI) consists for GBP 3 million for the development costs of courses and £ 10 million for scholarships to under-represented students in these sectors, in particular female, disabled and black students.

Matt Warman, Minister for Digital, said, “The technology is helping improve people’s lives by driving scientific advances in areas such as healthcare and I’m determined that everyone, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to build a successful career in the sector.”

“Our investment in these new artificial intelligence and data science conversion courses will help open up new opportunities for people and develop an even stronger workforce,” Warman added.

Chris Skidmore, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, said, “AI has the potential to drive breakthroughs that will positively impact all of our lives. Digital skills in transformational technologies like this are gold dust for employers across a range of industries.

Skidmore added, “Today’s funding for conversion courses will help our universities train the next generation of artificial intelligence experts and in doing so, ensure we continue to support talented people to develop these skills to help our economy thrive in the future.”

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the OfS, said, “There is a significant and growing demand for digital skills from employers across a wide range of industries, including – increasingly – those that have not traditionally relied heavily on these skills.”

“But the supply of talent is not keeping pace with demand, and a lack of diversity in the current workforce threatens to undermine the capability and credibility of the sector”, Dandridge added.

Insight Analysis

In the digital race, the geopolitical determinants of AI, big data, and 5G are critical to the global economy.

The UK Government’s Digital Strategy estimates that, within 20 years, 90 per-cent of jobs will require digital skills.

As a result, addressing digital skills shortages is a key component of the AI and data ‘grand challenge’ which aims to remove retraining barriers and drive diversity.

This funding aims to address all these issues by collaborating with universities and industry to allow people to train in AI and data science.

Neal Path

Neal Path is a Digital Policy journalist specialised in EU digital politics.
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