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May 20, 2019updated 24 May 2019 8:52am

Job automation targeted in £5m reskilling project to “beat the bots”

By Lucy Ingham

An initiative in the UK’s West Midlands is aiming to protect the region’s workers from job automation by funding digital training for 1,900 people.

Launched by Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, the project, dubbed Beat the Bots, has been allocated £5m, which will be divided between colleges and other training providers in the region.

As part of the initiative, the Mayor is challenging the region’s educational institutes to develop innovative approaches to digital reskilling that can maximise its effectiveness in protecting people from job automation.

Job automation puts workers at risk

While many positions are set to be augmented, rather than replaced, by job automation, many roles are at risk, particularly those in industries such as retail and delivery. Meanwhile, the UK has an ever-increasing demand for digital skills, particularly in areas such as data, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

It is hoped that the project, which is funded by the UK government’s National Retraining Scheme, will help to combat the issue in the region.

“This new Beat the Bots fund is our way to stay ahead – a chance for workers in the West Midlands to gain invaluable digital skills which will prepare our workforce for the jobs of the future,” said Mayor Andy Street.

“Artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles and robotics are getting better, and, in reality, it’s only a matter of time before real people will lose out to bots in the fight for jobs.

“The Beat the Bots fund will help people across the region gain the skills they need to get great careers in our booming digital industry – a sector which grew by over 33% between 2011 and 2016 and will employ upwards of 100,000 people here by 2030.”

“Automation poses a real threat to working people across the region – so this training fund is just one way we’ll help support residents to get the skills they need to beat the bots,” added councilor George Duggins, portfolio lead for productivity and skills at West Midlands Combined Authority.

“For the 19/20 academic year, the WMCA will also be in charge of the adult education budget for the region, and we’ve set a goal to ensure adults have the chance to retrain and reskill in a number of disciplines, such as digital, construction, manufacturing and engineering.”

Read more: Are new digital skills qualifications enough to arm the future workforce?