Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street has welcomed a new Government programme to retrain adults in the region whose jobs may be at risk from new technologies.
The launch of the Get Help to Retrain service in the West Midlands was announced today by education minister Kemi Badenoch.
The scheme will offer adults aged over 24, whose qualifications are below degree level and who are working below a certain wage threshold, the chance to retrain and get on the path to a new career.
The scheme is part of the £100m National Retraining Scheme – and will run alongside the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) retraining schemes, such as Construction Gateway and the £5m Beat the Bots project.
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 re-skilling and digital training is vital for workers across the West Midlands to make sure they are prepared for the future.
"Get Help to Retrain, announced by Government, will do this as well as help make sure businesses have the skilled workforce they need to develop in the long term. It goes hand-in-hand with my Beat the Bots scheme, where the WMCA is spending £5m to digitally train nearly 2,000 workers.
"I am delighted the Secretary of State has chosen the West Midlands as one of the first areas in the country to have the scheme, and I look forward to working closely with him to make sure it is a success."
Get Help to Retrain is designed to help adults identify their existing skills, explore different types of jobs and find training courses to gain the skills they need to progress.
Dedicated support will be provided by qualified careers advisers to help guide people through the process and provide expert information and advice.
The service was initially trialled in the Liverpool City Region, and will be available in the West Midlands, and the North East, from today (August 20).
The Government says eligible adults will be personally invited to test the service.
Education Minister Kemi Badenoch said: "Following the successful release of the Get Help to Retrain digital service in the Liverpool City Region, I am pleased to announce that, from today,we are rolling it out to two additional areas – the North East and the West Midlands.
"Get Help to Retrain is just the start of the National Retraining Scheme, which will play a vital role helping adults whose jobs are at risk of changing or evolving due to new technologies to learn new skills and get on the path to a new, more rewarding career.
"We're starting off small and rolling it out in stages so we can test, refine and develop the service as we go and make sure we get it right for the people who need it."
The National Retraining Scheme is overseen by the National Retraining Partnership, involving the CBI and TUC, to ensure the collective voices of businesses and employees are heard.
The National Careers Service is supporting the scheme by providing qualified careers advisers to those accessing help.
TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: "Every worker should have the opportunity to improve their skills and retrain. This is especially important as technology and automation are set to transform Britain’s economy in the coming years.
"The launch of the first phase of the National Retraining Scheme is great news. It’s the beginning of a collaborative approach between Government, unions and business to provide retraining to many more working people, so they are prepared for the jobs of the future."
Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, said: "The world of work is changing fast. The only way to help people adapt and learn throughout their careers is by employers and Government working together.
"The National Retraining Scheme should kick start a wider cross-government effort aimed at embracing the fourth industrial revolution."