Industrial welder with torch and protective helmet in big hall.
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UK government trials programme to retrain workers who lose jobs to AI

22 Jul 2019

Following on from speculation that up to 20m jobs could be lost to manufacturing, the UK government has begun trialling a scheme to help workers upskill.

A new national government scheme launched in the UK is set to help retrain workers whose jobs may become obsolete as a result of automation.

Analysis from Oxford Economics recently concluded that up to 20m manufacturing jobs around the world could be replaced by robots by 2030. The study also concluded that increasing automation would boost jobs and economic growth, though warned of a possible damaging increase to income inequality if sufficient measures aren’t taken to reskill the population.

The scheme, which will be trialled initially in Liverpool, will support workers by helping them either find a new career or develop new skills in anticipation of their role changing.

“Technologies like AI and automation are transforming the way we live and work, and bringing huge benefits to our economy,” explained UK education secretary Damian Hinds, speaking to BBC News. “It also means that jobs are evolving and some roles will soon become a thing of the past.

“The National Retraining Scheme will be pivotal in helping adults across the country whose jobs are at risk of changing to gain new skills and get on the path to a new, more rewarding career.

“This is a big and complex challenge, which is why we are starting small, learning as we go, and releasing each part of the scheme only when it’s ready to benefit its users.”

The Oxford Economics study found that each new industrial robot wipes out 1.6 manufacturing jobs. Regions where people may have what the firm terms ‘lower skills’, and therefore have higher rates of unemployment and weaker economies, are much more vulnerable to automation-related job loss.

Workers who move out of automation typically find new jobs in transport, construction, maintenance, and office and administration work. However, these sectors are also vulnerable to automation.

A 2018 study from the Pew Research Centre found that large majorities in nations it surveyed – including Greece, Canada, Argentina, Poland, the US and more – were worried about robots taking their jobs.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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