Funding Awards Will Help Bridge Digital Skills Gap

Midlands Enterprise Universities partners Birmingham City, Coventry, Nottingham Trent and Wolverhampton are among just 18 universities from across the UK to be awarded a share of £13 million to help bridge the digital skills gap.

The money has been awarded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Office for Artificial Intelligence (OAI) to fund the development postgraduate conversion courses in data science and artificial intelligence.

The programmes will specifically target graduates from backgrounds which are often underrepresented in these industries, particularly back, female and disabled students. Of the total £13 million funding available, £10 million will be used for scholarships to support students from these groups.

Graduates will be able to convert from both STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and non-STEM subjects to boost their digital skills and pursue a career in the various specialisations of this rapidly growing sector.

The universities will be working with industrial partners to create the courses including Amazon, Deloitte, IBM, Microsoft and Santander, many of whom will be offering paid work experience placements.

As well as widening participation and improving social mobility, the new conversion courses will help to address the shortage of data science and AI specialists in the UK.

The current supply of skilled graduates needs to increase significantly to keep pace with demand, which is expected to continue accelerating. The Government’s Digital Strategy predicted that within 20 years, 90% of all jobs will require some element of digital skills.

MEU Director Jenny Kenning said: “Our partners are looking forward to using this funding and their experience of working with employers in this sector to create a range of new courses which will upskill students in the exciting and expanding area of data science.

“With a common aim of raising aspirations and social mobility, our universities will also be building on their commitments to increasing the proportion of postgraduates from under-represented groups and ensuring student success regardless of background.”