The music industry, newspapers, real estate, postal services, accommodation, video and film, advertising, travel and media have all been transformed by the digital revolution. Mining and manufacturing were both early adopters of robotics and automation. And Agriculture is following suit.
But software is now impacting most sectors, automating an increasing number of administrational tasks as well. “Blue collar, white collar, no collar” – no area of work is completely safe.
And with the advent of machine learning and artificial intelligence, the automation of administration will continue to spread into professional services, education, banking, finance, rental and real estate, media and communications.
Any industry where a “broker” has historically managed the task of connecting a customer to a product or service is threatened. Real estate, car sales, financial services and mortgage broking are particularly vulnerable to smart systems and machine learning.
In fact, many traditionally “safe jobs” will come under threat. So it is important to have a clear picture of the challenges and understand why jobs in an industry are under threat.
The safest sectors are those that have already automated, such as mining and agriculture, or sectors where there is high degree of interpersonal relationship, such as health and social services, arts and recreation and food service, or where there is a creative or unique aspect to the task being delivered, as in house renovation in the construction industry, or design, arts and recreation, landscaping, architecture and engineering.
Remember, dumb tasks can be automated. Imagination, ideas and vision can’t be.
Robots can’t create themselves or repair themselves and will need designing, engineering and servicing.
Software needs developing and updating. Tradespeople will need to enhance their traditional skills with software skills. All trades are becoming smart trades as a result. The ever-increasing volumes of data generated by software activity need analysis and interpretation.
STEM⊗ skills and STEAM skills (STEM plus Arts) are important across all industry sectors and business categories, but individuals will also need to think about creating their own jobs, starting their own businesses, working and collaborating with friends, especially starting businesses in productive industries - agriculture, creative industry, defence, ICT, medical and health, manufacturing, METS§, smart trades and tourism.
Creative skills and STEAM skills and digital literacy, aligned with lifelong learning, critical thinking, collaborative skills, flexibility and resilience are the best tools for finding work in a competitive job market.
The traditionally secure job sectors of professional services and health – law, accounting and general practice are not as secure as they used to be, challenged by machine learning and AI. Financial services and banking face the same challenges.
Many of the entry-level jobs in transport, manufacturing, wholesale, retail and administrative services are also disappearing.
So employers have a lot more choice and seek people who will be reliable, flexible, polite and enthusiastic, and a good fit for their business. 75% of employers require applicants to have workplace experience.
Individuals will have to be prepared to update and upgrade their skills as the work environment evolves. Universities and TAFEs are offering micro-credentials across a wide range of subjects to support continual professional development not just for the term of a university degree, but from tertiary study through to retirement.
And corporates are now doing the same thing within their organisations, with training customised to their needs.
Experience can be gained through volunteering, work experience placements, internships, traineeships, casual and part-time work, which can often lead to full time employment opportunities.
The timetable of challenge from disruptive technologies is spread over decades, with some business categories like the taxi industry, having to deal with impacts today and others having years to plan and organise.
The challenges to work in Australia are not solely dictated by technology, but also involve government legislation and regulation, vested interests, political will and influence, education and training, as well as the influence of multinationals and software vendors across the planet.
But in general, disruptive technology is reducing the number of jobs internationally, and will exacerbate the inequalities in society between the “haves” and “have nots’ even further than today. The challenges of digital disruption require deep thinking and consideration by all of us if we are to manage this revolutionary change successfully.
If there are not enough jobs or meaningful roles in society, then inequalities will become more magnified. So managing the future of work and jobs, has to include solutions and roles for everybody, not just a fortunate few.
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