Automation is a key driver of productivity growth, which is critical in ensuring economic growth in the future, but techUK believes there are legitimate concerns of the short term impact of automation on people’s jobs. The only way these concerns can be addressed is through Government and industry action to provide lifelong training and re-training, and transforming our education system to be more suited to the 21st Century.
A new report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee asks the Government to create a UK Robot and AI Strategy by the end of 2020, if the UK wants to remain a global leader in new technologies. techUK welcomes this, and strongly encourages Government to work with industry to find ways to improve the adoption of automation.
The report also found that, in particular for SMEs, a lack of awareness and understanding of automation is harming business productivity. techUK has found this happening for a number of reasons, including because companies don’t understand the technology that is being developed and therefore don’t prioritise it. Other times it’s because the new technology did not fit in with existing systems.
By moving away from the narrative that “robots will take our jobs”, we can enable businesses to partially automate routine and repetitive tasks that require little creativity, to allow people to focus on other tasks. In order to prepare for this people will need to adapt in terms of their skill sets, and Government and industry need to do more to drive digital skills. In the short term, Government can do more to signpost to what is currently available for people to retrain and up-skill, and better explain how automation can help businesses.