Government launches retraining scheme for workers impacted by tech

Amid fears that artificial intelligence and automation will put people out of work, the government is working on a retraining programme to help those affected by AI to fit into new roles

The government is developing a scheme to help retrain people whose jobs may be impacted by advances in technology.

The digital service, dubbed Get Help to Retrain, is part of the National Retraining Scheme, which is focused on helping adults across the UK adapt to changes to the modern workplace.

Get Help to Retrain, which is launching first in Liverpool, will enable adults to assess their current skillsets and find job opportunities or training programmes to help them into a new role.

Education secretary Damian Hinds said: “Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are transforming the way we live and work and are bringing huge benefits to our economy, but 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.”

Hinds added: “This is 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 is ready to benefit its users. We are beginning with the launch of the Get Help to Retrain digital service in the Liverpool City Region first, working alongside our partners the CBI and TUC, to make sure we get it right and that the service works for the people who need it.”

The government said it had launched the retaining scheme after finding that 35% of jobs could be at risk of change due to automation over the next 10 to 20 years. Many have claimed that automation and AI will cause a shift in the workplace, with some roles replaced, some created and the rest needing to adapt to a mindset of life-long-learning as technology is adopted rapidly.

Initially, Get Help to Retrain will be offered as a private service, and adults who are eligible, including those aged 24 and above who have qualifications below degree level and a wage below a certain threshold, will be invited to test the service initially to help its development.

Once trials have taken place, amendments will be made, and the trial will be scaled and rolled out in other areas over the next year.

Trained careers advisers will be available to give participants advice and information. For the initial trial, support will be provided by the National Careers Service in the Liverpool City Region, and the scheme will be led by the National Retraining Partnership, involving government, the CBI and TUC, to provide the balance of collaboration between employees, businesses and the government to cover all bases in the service’s development.

Steve Rotheram, metro mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “As new technologies disrupt our existing economic model, creating new types of jobs but making others obsolete, it makes perfect sense to give people the opportunity to retrain for the employment opportunities of the future, so I am pleased that the National Retraining Scheme is launching in the Liverpool City Region.”

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Rotheram also emphasised the importance of ensuring that other future trials, services and developments are focused regionally, because not all cities have the same needs as London.

It is hoped that Get Help to Retrain will be released for use by eligible adults in England by the beginning of 2020.

More services are planned to help people find jobs and retraining opportunities in a digital world, and the National Retraining Scheme is being backed by £100m in government investment.

Vinous Ali, head of policy at TechUK, described starting small to trial and then scaling any services aimed at retraining adults across the UK as a solid plan, but said the government needs to think of more than just jobs altered by technology – most roles will be impacted by technology in the near future and beyond.

“While the focus is on job displacement, the fact is, no job is likely to remain untouched by the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” she said. “We will all need to learn new skills, which means we need to be making significant investments in lifelong learning and helping people to navigate a pathway through this change.”  

The National Retraining Scheme is part of the government’s industrial strategy, which, among other things, outlined the importance of developing the UK’s science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills in a digitally driven future.

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