Articles

Preparing the workforce for emerging technologies In focus

1 April 2019

New technologies like artificial intelligence are set to revolutionise the professional workplace. Both educators and employers need to be prepared, warns Ian Guider

1 April 2019

Written by

Ian Guider
This article was first published in the April 2019 Ireland edition of Accounting and Business magazine.

Earlier this year I spoke to an expert employed by a property company to study the future of buildings and how they will be occupied. For decades, there had been no change in his role of sourcing offices for blue chip companies in every city you can imagine. But recently his company has begun to look to the future, because in a decade or two many of those clients may not need all that space any more.

 

When we think of automation of employment, the view has always been that the robots are coming for someone else’s jobs: in factories, on production lines, manual roles. But the rise of the machine is much more widespread. Artificial intelligence (AI), data analysis and machine learning are coming for all of us. Much of what we think about jobs that can’t be done by anyone other than skilled, educated, employees is wrong.

 

The world of finance is one example. A lot of trading activity is already run by algorithms. Banks are also investing heavily in technology to handle risk assessment, credit decisions, anti-money laundering compliance and customer service. There are already programs that can mine legal rulings for precedents, removing the need for lawyers to spend hours researching judgments. AI chat interfaces are replacing some of the HR process to screen job candidates without the need for face-to-face interviews.

 

We are merely at the beginning of the impact that automation is having on what many would have considered roles impervious to change.

 

Irish investment policy has been built around being the hub for servicing multinational companies. Those back-office roles in the near future may simply not be required any longer.

 

 

Embracing change is important. There is no point in schools preparing students for jobs that won’t exist

For more than a year now, the state has been mapping the workforce’s vulnerability to automation – sector by sector and even town by town. The government’s future jobs strategy already estimates that two out of five jobs will disappear. How can we build on the opportunities rather than the despair this brings?

 

Embracing change is important and it needs to start in education. There is no point in schools and universities preparing students for jobs that won’t exist. We need to develop skills for emerging roles, such as data scientists.

 

It is also requires the state to play a part in reorientating the country towards the emerging technologies. Those jobs that will inevitably be lost cannot be directly replaced. That requires investing in new Irish companies that can be part of the future and supporting them.

 

I’ve long believed that technology should be welcomed with open arms. While the media industry may despair about the impact technology has on its business model, there is no doubt that same technology has brought content to a much wider audience.

 

One thing is certain, though – we will still need good baristas!

 

Ian Guider is markets editor of The Sunday Business Post.

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