For most of us living comfortably in the digital age, the growth of automation has certainly provided a wealth of benefits. Automation has eliminated many of the repetitive and menial tasks we face every day, both at home and on the job. And for that, many of us are thankful.
But looking at automation through a different lens, we see that there are some drawbacks as well. According to the recent study State of Automation Report compiled by analysts at CB Insights, researchers determined that automation will put 10 million jobs at risk over the next five to ten years, more than the number of jobs lost during the 2007-2010 recession. Analysts sifted through data to predict which jobs are at highest risk of disappearing, based on various factors such as the types of tasks streamlined by automation, the current deployment of technology, patents, industry regulations and much more.
Most of these jobs are in service and warehouse industries. The analysts predict up to 4.3 million cooks and servers; 3.82 million janitors, cleaners and housekeepers, and 2.4 million movers and warehouse workers will lose their jobs due to automation. In addition, significant numbers of retail workers, nurses and health aides, and truck drivers might also be displaced. White-collar jobs in the financial services and legal fields are at risk as well, according to the study.
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Automation Creates Jobs Too
Fortunately, job displacement caused by automation doesn’t necessarily mean the total number of jobs available to the masses will drop. Rather, entirely new jobs are being created by the growth in automation to take the place of those that might be lost. In fact, we’ve already seen such job creation as automation has boosted the productivity in companies across virtually all industries. Automation has helped lead to higher profits, increased demand for products or services, and a need for additional physical locations—all driving higher demand for new workers.
A study commissioned by ServiceNow found that 79 percent of executives surveyed believe automation could lead to job creation because it will free workers from mundane administrative tasks and allow them to fill jobs requiring soft skills like collaboration and creative problem-solving instead. And many of these types of skills can only be performed by people, not machines or software (AI isn’t quite there for soft skills yet!)
Demand Will Grow for Employees Specializing in Big Data and Analytics
The technology field will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of increased automation, driving the need for workers with well-honed technological skills. In particular, companies will need employees skilled in Big Data and Analytics, especially those with subject matter expertise in areas such as Hadoop, cloud computing, data science, MongoDB, Python, machine learning, Apache Spark, Tableau, and web services, to name just a few.
This presents an opportunity for both employers and employees to add new skill sets to the talent pool ahead of time in order to be prepared for the inevitable changes that automation will bring to the workplace.
Employers Can Cultivate New Skill sets Through Online Learning
One doesn’t have to be fully prepared right now in a particular area of data or analytics to start preparing for these new job demands or opportunities. Education is available both for those new to a field and those with varying levels of experience. For example, data science training in R will give employees an introduction on how to conduct data exploration, data visualization, predictive analytics, and descriptive analytics techniques to help drive business value. For those already working in data science or analytics, a course in machine learning provides an advanced understanding of machine learning application and working with algorithms, regression, clustering, classification, and prediction. Learning a particular language such as Python or software such as Apache can also build upon an employee’s existing skillset in preparation for a specialized role.
Certification provides even deeper learning for those who want to grow beyond their existing expertise. For example, a system administrator or a professional already working in data management can earn certification as a Big Data Hadoop Solutions Architect. Those who are already proficient in working with data can take it to the next level by earning certification as a Data Scientist, earning a deep understanding of analytics and Big Data using R, SAS, Hadoop, Python, and Spark.
Why Continuous Learning Is Required in the Age of Automation
One-off learning is a relic of the past. As automation marches forward, we will likely see continual changes in the workplace and the marketplace that will require staying on top of new developments and skills. Change is coming and the opportunities to upskill are there. It’s up to employees and employers to be ready, by planning for upskilling opportunities well ahead of time and keeping the ball rolling with a continuous learning corporate culture.
An article in the New York Times further supports the importance of continual learning as workers prepare for increased automation. Drawing from research by Pew Research Center and Elon University, the article illustrates that people will need to learn new skills throughout their careers by pursuing online courses and certifications. Upskilling and building a culture of continuous learning will be required to stay on top of changes in technology and automation.
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Be Ready for Automation Tomorrow by Upskilling Employees Now
On the surface, automation will continue to displace workers in both blue-collar and white-collar jobs. At the same time, however, automation will lead to heavy job growth, particularly for employees trained in data and analytics. By proactively growing the skillsets of your existing employees through online training and certifications, you can position your business for continued success.