Automation and the Future of Work

techUK's submission to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee inquiry into automation and the future of work.

In the 21st century automation fills a range of functions, from advanced AI assisting in healthcare diagnosis to online chatbots either answering questions or directing users directly to someone who can help, or even Internet of Thing (IoT) sensors detecting and ordering when new ingredients are needed in food processing factories. Generally, these are known as Software Process Automation.

As these new technologies become more widespread the nature of work will change, and whole new industries and roles will be created. How we enable companies to take advantage of these opportunities, and prepare the workforce to adapt to these changes, is one of the most critical policy discussions facing us today. 

This submission to BEIS is split into two areas of focus: the first looking at automation’s current and historical impact on businesses and productivity; the second will focus on the impact on individuals and the steps that must be taken to prepare the workforce. techUK will demonstrate how current scaremongering over automation is unfounded and an issue the world has faced many times before. It will highlight how, in order to fully realise the benefits of automation and the future of the work for all individuals, the Government must:

  • Work with industry to find ways to improve adoption of automation and other productivity-enhancing technologies by providing greater advice and support. For example, through digital productivity tax incentives for SMEs and better training and signposting for business leaders at a local level.
  • Remedy the short to medium term skills gap by ensuring the current workforce have the knowledge and understanding that allows them to adapt as workplaces transform for example by giving employers more flexibility over their use of the apprenticeship levy to train the existing workforce.
  • Transform education system to focus on lifelong learning and equip future generations with the new skillsets required to prosper in the future by moving from a heavy knowledge-led curriculum to one focused on promoting ‘soft’ skills and a culture of continuous learning, whilst also ensuring teachers across all subjects are upskilled in digital. 

There are legitimate concerns of the short term impact of automation on people’s jobs and the only way we can address these 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. Automation is a key driver of productivity growth, which is critical in ensuring economic growth in the future. techUK believes that it is not an option to resist the innovation that is happening. Even if we did, others would not, and we would lose out. Scaremongering about the impact of automation, and proposals such a ‘robot tax’, only serve to deter adoption when in fact we need to be creating incentives for businesses to boost their adoption if we are to remain globally competitive.

Read the full submission via the link below and if you would like to discuss further please get in touch with Ben Bradley.