A new £24m education programme is being launched in the UK as part of plans to boost the number of graduates with artificial intelligence and data science skills, with a focus on students from diverse backgrounds.
The scheme, which has been funded by the Government, the Office for Students, universities and industry partners, opens up 2,500 places for AI and data science post-graduate courses, beginning in autumn this year at 28 universities and colleges across the country.
The courses are designed to retrain those who have recently graduated in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) subjects or social sciences, and even those who have studied other subjects to date.
But the Government is also keen to attract people returning to work after a career break and those looking to retrain in a new profession. Some 2,500 places will be available, with 1,000 scholarships specifically targeting the female, black and disabled demographics.
Statistics from a Tech Nation and Royal Society report reveal women make up only 19% of the tech workforce and people from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background represent just 4% 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 and they will undertake paid work placements to help maximise their employment opportunities at the end of their course.
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."
AI skills champion Dame Wendy Hall added: "It is imperative that we continue to grow the pathways that supply good AI and data science jobs. Introducing new and diverse talent will continue to maintain the UK’s position as a global leader in AI and innovation. These conversion courses and the scholarships attached demonstrate the importance we place on diversity and talent."
The new courses follow last year’s announcement of a joint initiative between the Government and industry partners which will see an investment of £370 million over the next five years aimed at delivering 2,700 new PhD places in biosciences and AI.