UK workers who lose jobs to AI will be retrained

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Workers whose jobs might become obsolete as a result of automation are to receive help in retraining from a new national government scheme.

Up to 20 million manufacturing jobs around the world could be replaced by robots by 2030, according to analysis firm Oxford Economics.

The scheme will support workers by helping them find a new career or gain more skills, should their jobs change.

The programme will be trialled initially in Liverpool.

“Technologies like AI and automation are transforming the way we live and work and bringing huge benefits to our economy,” said Education Secretary Damian Hinds.

“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.

“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.”

According to Oxford Economics, people whose jobs become obsolete because of industrial robots and computer programs are likely to find that comparable roles in the services sector have also been squeezed by automation.

On average, each additional robot installed in lower-skilled regions could lead to nearly twice as many job losses as those in higher-skilled regions of the same country, exacerbating economic inequality and political polarisation, which is growing already, the analysis firm found.

Prof Alan Woodward, a computer expert from the University of Surrey says that although automation will lead to the loss of some jobs, this is “inevitable”, because it is now far cheaper to manufacture products in other countries.

“Automation is not here to put people out of work, it’s here to free them up,” he told the BBC. “We’re better off using people’s brains, not their hands – things that machines can’t do. That’s what we should be heading towards.”

TechUK, the body representing the UK tech industry said it welcomed the government’s move.

“It is right that the government is starting small to ensure lessons are learnt, and adaptations are made along the way, but the ambition to scale so that this becomes a truly national retraining scheme cannot be lost,” techUK’s head of policy, Vinous Ali, told the BBC.

“Whilst the focus is on job displacement, the fact is no job is likely to remain untouched by the fourth Industrial Revolution, so we will all need to learn new skills.

“This means we need to be making significant investments in lifelong learning and helping people to navigate a pathway through this change.”

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