Workers risking redundancy from AI to be retrained in new scheme

Government’s £100 million programme aims to reskill redundant UK workforce, but experts call for plans to be ‘more ambitious’

The government is piloting a new scheme to support UK workers whose jobs are at risk from advances in technology to retrain and move into new careers.

The National Retraining Scheme, backed by £100 million of government funding, will include a number of initiatives aimed at helping workers identify new employment opportunities and educate them on what skills they need to secure future jobs.

The scheme’s first project will be a digital service, called Get Help to Retrain (GHR), which will help workers identify their existing skills, explore opportunities local to them and direct them to appropriate training courses. It will also provide support from trained careers advisers from the National Careers Service.

The National Retraining Scheme was announced by education secretary Damian Hinds as a response to the changing nature of jobs and the types of tasks people do at work, and the need for a multi-skilled workforce.

The government estimates around 7.4 per cent of jobs (equivalent to 1.5 million) in England could be automated or partly automated in the future, while Deloitte estimates 35 per cent of UK jobs are at high risk of automation in the next 10 to 20 years.

Hinds said that while AI was transforming the way we live, it would also mean some roles would soon be a “thing of the past”.

“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’s ready to benefit its users,” said Hinds. 

However, Lizzie Crowley, skills advisor at the CIPD, called for more ambitions plans to build skills going forward – noting that there had been a 40 per cent cut to adult education over the past 10 years and a decline in employer investment in training. 

“We need to see something at a significantly larger scale and much more ambitious going forward that is actually going to tackle some of the deep-rooted problems,” she said.

GHR will begin with a pilot in Liverpool, with eligible adults aged 24 and over with a qualification below degree level being invited to trial the service before it is scaled up and rolled out to the rest of England in 2020.

When fully rolled out, the National Retraining Scheme plans to offer tailored support from qualified national careers services, overseen by the National Retraining Partnership – a newly created partnership between government, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC).