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UK must tackle impact of rapid technological change, says Corbyn

Setting out plans for Labour’s National Education Service, Jeremy Corbyn says the country needs to invest in skills and training to ensure benefits of technological change and not leave people behind

The government has a responsibility to ensure citizens are equipped to tackle changes brought about by new technologies, according to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In a speech at the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) Business and Education Summit, the Labour leader set out his party’s plans for its National Education Service, which aims to make further education courses free at the point of use.

Corbyn doesn’t believe new technologies will result in mass unemployment, as long as it’s not left “up to the market”.

“[It requires] public institutions, public investment and public enterprise to manage the social and economic effects of rapid technological change so that it benefits the many not the few,” he said.

“As in every other technological revolution, disappearing jobs will be replaced by new, as yet unforeseen, forms of work. But there will be churn, as these new forms of work will often require a different set of skills to those they replace,” he added.

Corbyn said this would require investment in a “step change in skills and training to upgrade the skills of the existing workforce and make sure everyone is able to retrain at any point in life to meet the changing needs of the economy”.

He claimed Labour’s education service would offer free courses to everyone “at any stage of their lives”. This, Corbyn added, is key to the country’s future prosperity and productivity.

In Labour’s general election manifesto, the party said technology demanded a different set of skills “and evolving patterns of work mean that people are more likely to pursue several careers during their working lives, [so] it is crucial that our education system enables people to upskill and retrain over their lifetimes”. 

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