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How may I be of assistance?

How may I be of assistance?

Today Paul called me up and told me I just had to listen to a radio interview on the BBC’s Radio 5. And it was on the subject of automation and it’s impact on jobs.  You can get the interview here.

Now, I’ve been following the impact of technology and innovation on the economy for a few years now, but something really surprised me in this interview.

I’ve given talks on the Good the Bad and the Ugly effects of innovation.  We’ve all read stories about industrial action taken by workers in fear of losing their jobs.  And I’ve written about the lag as workers with old skills that nobody seems to want any more are displaced as a result of new technologies and are then condemned to the job centre for the rest of their useful working life.

But overall society in general benefits because of the greatly increased productivity and shift in labour to more productive ends.

But the thing that really surprised me in the interview was the rate of new job creation in the last 15 years.  Could it be that this lag between old jobs and new jobs has disappeared?

The facts from the report produced by Oxford University are these.

In the last 15 years, in the UK, 800000 jobs were lost as a result of technological automation.  But the rate of new job creation greatly exceeded that – over 3.5 million new jobs were produced – and not low paid, but those earning an extra £10k a year.  These were created in jobs with technologies, creative roles, business professional services and the caring professions.  It’s the speed of job re-creation that’s the real eye opener for me.  And it makes me feel a lot better about advocating innovation strategies.

Will you be replaced by a Robot?

Probably not. The report identifies from 369 job titles that 35% of jobs or a further 10.8million are at risk of further automation.  But it’s less a binary situation – it doesn’t necessarily mean a human is replaced by a robot – but more subtly, that human jobs are assisted by technologies.  And that’s a trend as old as industry itself and innovation.

So what will you advise your teenage son or daughter to do – as I did this evening?

The Jobs of the Future will be even more about the ability to do things that Robots cannot – demanding more creativity, complex problem solving and emotional connections that only humans can give.

As we move even further from the jobs of an agricultural based economy to creatively, making and servicing things, systems and other people, then the skill set of innovation will be the choice that wins.

If you want to see the whole paper from the Oxford study you can find it here.

Rob Munro

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