From the editor: Automation revolution presents upskill opportunity

Thursday January 18, 2018
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Jan. 18, 2018 - Dozens of analyses have been released over the past decade estimating a large segment of the labour market will be displaced due to increased automation in the workplace. The McKinsey Global Institute recently predicted up to 800 million workers worldwide — or one-fifth of the global workforce — will lose their jobs by 2030 and be replaced by robotic automation.

“All workers will need to adapt, as their occupations evolve alongside increasingly capable machines,” states the report. In the manufacturing sector, the report notes machine operating and production line jobs as two areas more susceptible to automation.

For millions around the world, the fear of intelligent robots taking away their jobs remains top of mind.

But the future manufacturing landscape is not one without humans. While there’s no denying the impending affect of industrial automation on the labour force, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has also prompted a movement to ensure new value-added, highly skilled human jobs are created.

“Overall we found that nearly 42 per cent of the Canadian labour force is at a high risk of being affected by automation within the next 10 to 20 years,” writes Creig Lamb, senior policy advisor for the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship, in a 2016 report. “In all likelihood, in some cases technology will replace entire jobs. But for others, technology will complement labour, improve productivity and help to create more, specialized jobs.”

The McKinsey report describes how training can be improved: “To achieve good outcomes, policy makers and business leaders will need to embrace automation’s benefits and, at the same time, address the worker transitions brought about by these technologies.

“Mid-career job training will be essential, as will enhancing labour market dynamism and enabling worker redeployment. These changes will challenge current educational and workforce training models, as well as business approaches to skill-building. Another priority is rethinking and strengthening transition and income support for workers caught in the crosscurrents of automation.”

In November 2017, Autodesk announced it is teaming up with LinkedIn Learning to provide free access to 42 courses for the manufacturing and design industries, among others. The unlocked courses are available in five languages.

Meanwhile, Rockwell Automation and workforce solutions company ManpowerGroup recently committed to upskilling 1,000 American veterans every year to help strengthen the talent pool for in-demand advanced manufacturing roles.

We must ensure today’s workers have the training and skills needed to transition to the jobs of tomorrow.

As Jonas Prising, chairman and CEO of ManpowerGroup, puts it: “We are seeing the emergence of a Skills Revolution today — where helping people upskill and adapt to this fast-changing world of work will be the defining challenge of our time.”

This column was originally published in the January/February 2018 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.

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