Contracts awarded for £5m ‘Beat the Bots’ fund in West Midlands

Workers across the West Midlands are having their skills transformed for 21st century jobs thanks to a £5 million ‘Beat the Bots’ fund launched by the Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street.

The fund, which was announced back in May, helps upskill workers whose jobs could be under threat of automation, whilst also providing digital training to those with no previous experience.

Mr Street, who is the former CEO of John Lewis, announced at the launch of Birmingham Tech Week the 10 organisations across the region that will be training the digital workers of the future – with 1,100 training places currently up for grabs.

Training providers include School of Code, which is currently Birmingham-based but is expanding into Coventry and the Black Country, and Dudley College, who will be training employed adults in manufacturing technology, drone technology and virtual reality.

The Mayor said:

“From my days at John Lewis, I know just how fast technology moves in business. Artificial Intelligence, self-driving vehicles and robotics are getting better, and, in reality, it is only a matter of time before real people will lose out to bots in the fight for jobs.

“That is why the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has launched the Beat the Bots fund, which is a chance for workers in the West Midlands to gain invaluable digital skills to prepare them for the jobs of the future.

“Our digital industry is booming, employing an estimated more than 100,000 people by 2030, and I want local people to have the skills they need to lead this thriving sector.”

Mr Street’s speech at Millennium Point in Birmingham as part of the city’s Tech Week also highlighted how the region’s tech sector is growing rapidly, with more start-ups coming out of Birmingham last year than anywhere else in the country outside of London.

The WMCA, which Mr Street chairs, is committed to improving digital skills throughout the region and has, on top of the ‘Beat the Bots’ fund, supported higher level courses, collaborated with further education providers to develop new provision, and has launched a new employer-led Digital Skills Partnership.

As part of this strategy to significantly expand digital skills in the West Midlands, the WMCA is hosting a showcase event on Friday (October 11) at Millennium Point.

The DEN (Digital Education Network) event, which is one of the events in Birmingham Tech Week, brings together leading skills providers from across the region to show off the latest technology with live demonstrations, including robotics and flying drones.

Cllr George Duggins, WMCA portfolio holder for skills and productivity and leader of Coventry City Council, said:

“People across the region will be able to learn valuable digital skills to improve their career prospects whether currently in work or not as a result of this funding.

“This event is a superb opportunity for businesses to come and see just what these training providers are offering and how they can supply them with trained personnel to fill their skills gaps, enabling them to get-ahead in the digital technology race.”

Friday’s event runs from noon until 2.30pm and businesses can book through Eventbrite here or for more information email aeb.enquiries@[email protected]