2,500 new places on artificial intelligence and data science conversion courses now open to applicants

Graduates will have the opportunity to apply for a place on new artificial intelligence (AI) and data science masters courses starting in autumn 2020, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden announced today.

The move will enable 2,500 people to develop new digital skills or retrain to help find new employment in the UK’s cutting-edge AI and data science sectors.  

The government has joined forces with the Office for Students, universities and industry partners to create a fund of up to £24 million to increase the number of highly-skilled workers in AI and data science roles. The cash will provide places for graduates from a range of backgrounds - both those that have  a degree in science, technology, engineering, maths or social sciences and those that have studied other subjects to date. Scholarships will be made available to support applications from diverse backgrounds. 

Applicants could include people returning to work after a career break and looking to retrain in a new profession, under-represented groups in the AI and digital workforce. 1000 scholarships will specifically target the female, black and disabled demographics. 

Statistics from a Tech Nation and Royal Society report reveal women make up only 19 per cent of the tech workforce and people from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background represent just 4 per cent of the UK tech industry.

Successful students will have flexible access to study and course content so they can fit their studies around their daily lives. Students will undertake paid work placements to help maximise their employment opportunities at the end of their course which could see them land roles as machine learning engineers, data scientists, research scientists or AI architects.

The announcement is part of the government’s commitment to increase research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “It is vital we increase diversity across our tech sector and give everyone with the aptitude and talent the opportunity to build a successful career. 

“This will help make sure artificial intelligence developed in the UK reflects the needs and make-up of society as a whole which will also  help mitigate the risk of biased technologies being developed. 

“Through these new AI and data science conversion courses we are working with industry and academia to develop and maintain the best AI workforce in the world.”

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “From disease diagnosis to driverless vehicles, demand for a diverse new pipeline of talent in the AI and digital workforce has never been greater. 

“By working with our leading universities and industry partners, I am delighted that we are providing students from all backgrounds the chance to upskill and help tackle some of the most complex challenges of our time.”

Creating a more diverse future workforce will help with the design of new technology that has the potential to help tackle some of the greatest social challenges of our time - from protecting our environment to transforming the way we live and work and also saving lives by detecting signs of diseases earlier.

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