More than a third of jobs in West Yorkshire could be obsolete in just two decades’ time.
That’s the verdict from a report put together by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which warns more than 400,000 jobs in the region are at risk of advances in technology and automation.
The report, which will go before members of the authority’s employment and skills panel today (Sept 11), claims low-skilled and manual jobs could be most at risk from automation. It suggests the changes don’t necessarily mean a loss of jobs overall, but warns they “could worsen inequality,” with “lower paid workers likely to be particularly affected by automation and other groups, like older workers could suffer.”
But could such changes be an opportunity?
Phil Purnell, professor of materials and structures at the University of Leeds and a former highways operative, thinks technological changes in the workplace could drive jobs growth in the region.
He said: “The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in mainstream areas of employment is an opportunity for workers, not something to be feared.
“As robotic systems become smarter, they will be able to carry out more of the mundane, repetitive jobs which are necessary in society, but often not interesting or enjoyable for people to do.
“Robots will still need to interact with humans, they will still need to be built, controlled and repaired. It’s worth noting that in the US and German motor industries, installing more robots has resulted in more workers overall, not fewer.”
But some believe that the problem won’t be a lack of jobs, rather a lack of skilled candidates to fill them.
The West Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce’s Andy Caton used to work in the financial sector – an area affected massively by automation. He worries about a lack of skills in some sectors, but ultimately believes new technology will create new jobs.
He said: “The manufacturing industry, for example, is desperately looking for skilled young people to join them.
“These reports often focus on the destructive effects, but they don’t seem to factor in the wealth creation and improvements in productivity.” The Combined Authority will meet today (Sept 11) to discuss the report.
NEW SKILL SETS ARE REQUIRED
Social media marketing did not exist a decade ago - but now there are experts in this rapidly growing field.
At the time of writing, recruitment website TotalJobs is advertising 221 social media job vacancies in West Yorkshire alone.
Kate Wellham is a former journalist-turned-social media manager. She thinks her jobs market is beginning to require people with greater skill-sets, and this could be mirrored elsewhere. “People consume media in so many different ways these days,” she said. “Being able to do more becomes really valuable.”