The fear of automation is creating media headlines every day and research studies are generating figures that are being interpreted variously to predict different possible futures. For example, a recent OECD report suggests there is less risk from AI and robotics than previously feared and countered a previous study by Oxford University (2013) that suggested that about 47% of jobs in the US in 2010 and 35% in the UK were at ‘high risk’ of being automated.
The UAE is embracing and pioneering innovation and enabling technologies such as AI, with the world’s first Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, so believes in the potential and opportunities of these technologies. In fact, AI is expected to contribute almost 14 percent of the UAE’s GDP in 2030, according to PwC, and so is an attractive growing new industry itself.
In fact, automation is something that we see happening already in many different fields of work and functions.
The majority of jobs will still require a human touch. There are some human elements of work that perhaps cannot be replaced (not yet at least) by robots, including empathy, emotional intelligence, and leadership skills. For example, in healthcare, some aspects of service can be automated but patients still expect a human interaction.
I don’t believe we should fear automation but students and working professionals need to be aware of what is happening in their particular industry and how potentially disruptive technologies such as AI and robotics may be – threats and opportunities.
The key to any successful long-term career really remains the same – which is to identify how one can remain competitive in a changing labour market; the difference today is that new technologies are being adopted faster and in some cases, digital processes can outperform humans for some repetitive tasks.
Students need to ask themselves – what will my target industry/role look like in the short and medium term, given the impact of technology?
Sectors on the rise include ICT and Cyber Security, Healthcare, and Renewable Energy, according to recent reports on the future of work by McKinsey and Company.
Knowledge workers will have the advantage over more generic skills and jobs.
Automation will have a lower impact on jobs that include leadership and management. Recruitment experts talk about the continued vital importance of soft skills (leadership, influencing, creativity, teamwork and collaboration) and emotional intelligence; developing transferable skills, keeping them refreshed through ongoing training and development, building networks and finding a mentor - these are all crucial elements of career building.
Working professionals, regardless of their preferred industry, should continue to develop their soft skills and the ability to learn and adapt, for the new jobs created by Automation.
Self-education and continued personal and career development will add great value for students today and in the workplace of the future – with or without robots.
Elena Agaragimova is Career Consultant, The University of Manchester Middle East Centre in Dubai