New report highlights looming problem as tech accelerates
The US is facing an impending crisis due to a shortage of skilled tech workers, according to Enate’s 2023 Future of Work Playbook. The new report emphasizes the need for businesses to prioritize upskilling their employees to prevent societal disruptions, as salaries diverge and some types of jobs disappear.
A lot of the problem is the rise of automation and new technologies like AI. Only 20% of the current workforce are set to benefit from automation, which is growing exponentially.
Data provided by Hays shows Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is growing by 25% annually, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) by 37.5%, far outpacing the growth in the number of skilled workers.
“The iPhone in your pocket has over 100,000 times the processing power of the computer that landed man on the Moon 50 years ago,"
Graham Kendell, University of Nottingham
“Automation has the potential to polarize salaries, however it’s possible to minimize its impact. The issue is not the total number of jobs (there will be more available than can be filled), but the shift in demand away from traditional lower skilled roles towards new, higher-skilled ones,” says Tim Olsen Director of Intelligent Automation at HAYS. “This shift has created a technical skills gap, and the delay in upskilling lower-skilled workers and transitioning them to technology roles is too great to avoid a societal impact. Companies must take accountability for growing their talent pool through continuous learning and increasing inclusion and diversity.”
The report details methods on balancing automation with also keeping people employed:
- Focus on automating for efficiency, not removing headcount.
- Put automation in the hands of citizen developers.
- Give automation-risk employees the opportunity to pivot roles or retrain.
- Be upfront and transparent about the future.
Wayne Butterfield, Global Head of Intelligent Automation Solutions at ISG, says, “As much as there is clearly a shortage of workers in certain roles and in certain geographies, there is not a shortage of people who, if given the right training, support, pay and benefits, could fill such positions. However, this will only be possible if the employer is willing to facilitate change.”
One potential avenue for US employers to pursue is hiring remote talent from overseas. The report also reveals that currently 11% of the global workforce is borderless.
Job automation through the ages
1BCE: Waterwheels gain widespread adoption by the Greeks and Romans during the first century BCE for milling grain into flour. While simpler machines existed before, they required considerable human or animal labor to operate. The use of watermills, powered by falling water, marked the emergence of "semi-automation" and the initial phase of the evolution of automation.
7th-9th Century: The Persians invent the windmill which is used to grind grain. Over time, windmills were developed for various other applications. While watermills typically offer more power for their size, windmills were useful in regions with no access to flowing water. Both technologies continued to advance and spread worldwide, reducing the need for manual labor in a variety of applications including hammermills, sawmills, paper mills, ore-crushing mills, and tool-sharpening mills.
17th Century: The industrial revolution of the 17th to 18th century, which began in Western Europe, marks a significant milestone in the advancement of industrial automation. The invention of steam engines, steam mills, and internal combustion engines during this period largely supplanted the use of watermills and windmills.
Arwright invents the spinning Jenny that allows one person to do the spinning of 8, then 80. Workers now work in factories, and large cities spring up to house them.
In 1785 Evans pioneers the development of the first fully automated industrial process with the creation of an automatic flour mill. This technology enabled continuous production without the need for human intervention, making it a groundbreaking achievement in the history of industrial automation.
Dec 1913: Henry Ford introduces the revolutionary moving assembly line. Workers start to leave as the work now becomes boring so Ford introduces the $5 workday with bonuses and profit shares, starting a mass migration of engineers to Detroit
Dec 1976: Michael Schrayer releases Electric Pencil software that allows a personal computer to act like a wordprocessor, starting the end of the typing pool.
Nov 2022: OpenAI releases its ChatGPT AI software which gains rapid acceptance, and high press visibility as headlines predict mass layoffs.