£23m fund to boost diversity in data science and AI jobs

more data 2The UK is boosting its drive to create a new generation data science and AI experts, ploughing up to £23m in funding for masters conversion courses in an effort to attract more underrepresented groups into the industry, including women, black people and those with disabilities.

The move includes plans to create 2,000 scholarships which will enable graduates to do further study courses in data science and AI, even if their undergraduate course is not directly related.

The Government is encouraging companies to play their part in creating a future pipeline of AI talent by match-funding the AI scholarships for the conversion courses.

It is hoped that industry support will get more people into the AI and data science job market quicker and strengthen their businesses.

Ministers claim the new scholarships will ensure more people can build successful careers in AI companies, create and develop new and bigger businesses, and will improve the diversity of this growing and innovative tech sector.

The enrolment data for the first year of the programme, launched in 2019, indicates that the courses are contributing to changes in the tech industry towards a more diverse workforce.

Delivered by the Office for Students, the first stage supported 28 universities in England to set up and provide degree conversion courses in AI and data science.

Three quarters (76%) of scholarship students on the £13.5m programme were women, whereas only 30% of masters students on traditional computing courses are women. Meanwhile, nearly half (45%) were black and a quarter (24%) had disabilities, boosting representation on the AI and data science courses.

The first phase also attracted tech talent from outside of London and the South East, with 70% of the total students and 84% of the scholarship students based outside of these areas in England.

DCMS Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy Chris Philp said: “The UK is already a world leader in AI. Today we’re investing millions to ensure people from all parts of society can access the opportunities and benefits AI is creating in this country.

“We are doubling the number of AI scholarships previously available to underrepresented groups to build a diverse and inclusive workforce fit for the future of tech.”

The UK is ranked third in the world for private venture capital investment into AI companies (2019 investment reached almost £2.5bn) and is home to a third of Europe’s total AI companies.

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