The UK ranks number three globally for the level of capital investment in Artificial Intelligence (AI) companies which totalled almost £2.5billion in 2019. Home to a third of AI companies in Europe, the UK is ramping up funding for AI and technology skills.

£23million is earmarked for AI and data conversion courses, with the aim to get more underrepresented groups involved in the tech industry as part of the National AI Strategy. 

Two thousand scholarships will be created for data science and AI Masters conversion courses to encourage young people to enter the sector. The hope is that providing these courses will kick off the next generation of AI careers, grow the tech industry and diversify the candidates in this field. 

George Freeman, Science Minister, said “AI [is] already playing a key role in everything from climate science and medical diagnostics to factory robotics and smart cities. It is therefore 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.”

The conversion courses are meant to attract people who have not done a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) degree; not only to expand access, but to encourage a wider range of disciplines, perspectives and backgrounds to contribute to the development of the sector. 

The government are calling on the private sector to participate in the effort to educate more people in AI and data science skills in order to strengthen the market.

Despite 70% of computing courses being taken by men, women made up 76% of the scholarships awarded in 2019. Another positive outcome was that of the total students participating in the conversion courses, 45% were black and 24% had disabilities, highlighting a strong drive to involve more minority groups. 

Additionally, 84% of the scholarship students and 70% of the total students who took the courses were based outside of London and south east England, underlining the success of expanding opportunities for tech roles beyond the capital. 

Director for Fair and Access and Participation at the Office for Students, John Blake, commented that “The enrolment data for the first year of the programme indicates that the courses are contributing to changes in the tech industry towards a more diverse workforce. I look forward to the next phase of the programme and seeing how universities and organisations are collaborating to support access for underrepresented students”. 

Investment in AI skills and courses is set to rise further over the next ten years as the UK government try position the country as a leading power in tech and data science – critical sectors for the future global economy.

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