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Why automation won't kill off your job

By Fi Darby | 10 May 2019

Across global history and the history of Australia, there have been technological advances that have changed the ways in which we manufacture, learn and work. 

The spread of the Industrial Revolution, the invention of programmable digital computers, the introduction of the internet and the rise of artificial intelligence have all had their impact on employment, the workforce and required skills.

Automation is looked on as a new phenomenon but, in truth, it has been with us through history and will continue to unfold, often at pace, as we progress into the future. 

Despite these historical precedents, the question in many people’s minds remains as to whether or not the rise of the tech-enabled workplace will lead to a redundant workforce and a lack of jobs. 

Research suggests that this is not the case and that, although we will see roles supported by technology, it will be our digital fluency and ability to access these tools that will really matter.

Why won't automation kill off your job?

  1. Reshaping but not replacing.
  2. The support of technology.
  3. The speed of progress.
  4. Old skills, new skills.

1. Reshaping but not replacing.

re-shaping concept

There can be no doubt that Australia’s traditional models of working are currently subject to change but this is not as unusual as we might think. Just over 100 years ago, most Australians worked in employment related to agriculture; manufacture took over from that as a major employer and now we see the growth of automation, reshaping not only job roles but also whole industries. 

Australia’s ability to rise to the ebb and flow of industry requirements has not diminished and, with increased globalisation, our world has shrunk but our capacity to adjust to new industrial situations has not. 

Another important point to remember is that the advancement of technology is not the only influence currently in play on our workplaces. 

Factors such as our aging population and the rise of globalisation are also having an impact. 

Globalisation has brought us closer to the rest of the world when it comes to political effects, market share and multiculturalism, and our falling birth rates are likely to keep people in the workforce longer rather than force them out early because of skills shortfalls.

2. The support of technology.

technology concept

It has long been thought that there are some types of job roles that are more resistant to the changes brought about by digital disruption than others. 

Whereas it might be easy to imagine a robot taking over on a manufacturing production line, it is harder to see where technology and even artificial intelligence might impact job roles that involve caring, educating or making key business decisions

In 2018, the Australian employment sector with the most new created jobs (over five years) was healthcare and social assistance. This large and important sector of employers is already demonstrating technology’s influence at a support level and reporting a shortage in data scientists, health-trained technologists and clinicians with digital health skills. 

The jobs in health care have not disappeared, quite the opposite, but digital competency is now a key required skill alongside more traditional skills such as communication and organisation. This pattern is being repeated across a wide range of Australia’s industries.

3. The speed of progress.

speed concept

With digital disruption changing industries at unprecedented rates and often in unpredictable ways, it is easy to understand both employer and employee concerns over an inability to keep up with trends. 

Take the retail industry as an example, traditional retail models involve the purchase and sales of stock but Alibaba, one of the world’s most successful retailers, holds no stock of its own. 

When you examine the situation more closely however, it becomes clear that, although new technologies are having considerable impact, their implementation requires significant change to business models and processes; change that takes time to implement. 

It is only as employees choose to reskill or upskill that new technologies can reach their full potential; this may well mean that the workforce has more control over the speed of progress than they once thought.

4. Old skills, new skills.

skills concept crossword

When you start to look at the current in-demand workplace skills, it becomes clear that, as well needing skilled and qualified information technology employees who will set up and maintain complex computer systems, today’s employers also place more traditional skill sets such as management skills at the top of their ‘sought after’ lists. 

There is good reason for this, in the world of digital disruption, soft skills such as creativity, collaboration and adaptability play a vital part in the development, successful implementation and efficient use of new technologies. 

When it comes to hard skills, the picture is equally surprising; although solid digital skills such as computer programming and network management are desirable, those with the ability to bring an understanding of technology to play in wider contexts will continue to be sought after. 

For example, the ability to work efficiently with cloud computing, produce great audio content, tell compelling journalistic stories and bring together a range of digital marketing strategies, are already key multi-industry skills. 

Those of us who are worrying about keeping up with the digital revolution might be surprised by how much of the necessary skillsets we are already starting to develop. You might not see your social media obsession as a useful workplace skill but, with the right training, you can be sure that a prospective employer will.

Want to show your value to the workplace?

Whatever your current skillset or job role, the most sensible way to look at the latest revolutions in the workforce is to see forthcoming changes as opportunities rather than threats. 

By keeping a regular eye on the very latest in Australian industry news and employment tips, and updating your current skills through Upskilled’s range of flexible online learning courses, you can continue to impress your employer and future-proof your work life.
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