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20/05/2019
Mayor launches “Beat the Bots” fund

The Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street has today launched a £5 million “Beat the Bots” fund to help train the region’s workers for the jobs of the future.

Recent reports* estimate 1.5 million employees in the UK could be at risk from automation in future – almost one in ten of us – as advances in technology threaten thousands of jobs in catering, hospitality, driving and agriculture.

The Beat the Bots fund will pay for digital training for up to 1,900 people in the West Midlands over the next three years.

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is now looking for colleges and training providers to apply for a slice of the fund, and wants them to suggest innovative ways to deliver digital training in the region.


Mayor Andy Street said:

“From my days at John Lewis, I know just how fast technology moves in business. This new Beat the Bots fund is our way to stay ahead – a chance for workers in the West Midlands to gain invaluable digital skills which will prepare our workforce for the jobs of the future.

“Artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles and robotics are getting better, and, in reality, it’s only a matter of time before real people will lose out to bots in the fight for jobs.

“The Beat the Bots fund will help people across the region gain the skills they need to get great careers in our booming digital industry – a sector which grew by over 33% between 2011 and 2016 and will employ upwards of 100,000 people here by 2030.”


The £5 million funding comes from the Government’s National Retraining Scheme, and was announced by Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds in summer 2018 as part of the WMCA’s Skills Deal.

One coder who used digital training to change her life is Clare Streets. The mother-of-two, from Dudley, had spent seven years as a stay-at-home mum - but less than a year after a 16-week training course at Birmingham’s School of Code she is now an associate director at award-winning Birmingham software consultancy firm B13 technology.

She is also a member of the West Midlands Digital Skills Partnership, which brings together tech firms, businesses, universities, colleges and training providers from the region to help find ways to improve people’s digital skills and qualifications.


Clare said:

“Digital skills training transformed my life and it is fantastic to see this new fund being launched by Andy Street.

“Since passing my course I have felt incredible. I have got a career that is really rewarding with lots of opportunities for growth in a really exciting industry.

“Deciding to boost my digital skills was one of the best decisions of my life and I haven’t looked back since.”


Cllr George Duggins, WMCA portfolio lead for productivity and skills, said:

“Automation poses a real threat to working people across the region – so this training fund is just one way we’ll help support residents to get the skills they need to beat the bots.

“For the 19/20 academic year, the WMCA will also be in charge of the adult education budget for the region, and we’ve set a goal to ensure adults have the chance to retrain and reskill in a number of disciplines, such as digital, construction, manufacturing and engineering.”


A tender process for training providers and colleges to apply for a slice of the £5m fund starts on Monday, 20 May. For details of how to apply for funding, email digitalfund@wmca.org.uk 

Following the tender, the first “Beat the Bots” courses could begin as early as September 2019.


Clare Streets and Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street are available for interview.

To arrange a slot, please contact Alistair Harris, media officer, on 0121 214 7278, or email alistair.harris@wmca.org.uk  


Image: Clare Streets from B13 Technology, with her award for graduate of the year at the West Midlands Tech Awards, with Dr Chris Meah from the School of Code. 

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