The Impact of Automation on the Labor Market

Last week the World Economic Forum weighed in on the impact of automation on the labor market with its Future of Jobs Report 2018. Like other reports and predictions, this one says that change in the labor market is inevitable: Technology will continue to expand, and both business and workers need to be prepared.

More than 75 million jobs could be lost in the next four years as businesses expand their use of automation. However, 133 million new jobs could be created during that time as people learn to work with the new technology. If these predictions are accurate, the impact of automation on the labor market will include both changing and eliminating jobs. The challenge for businesses is to look forward and determine what skills they will need their labor force to have. The challenge for individuals is to look forward and determine how they will develop the skills sets needed for the future.

It is important that individuals and businesses take advantage of education opportunities in preparation for how the labor market could change. The World Forum report says that the gain of 133 million new jobs isn’t a guarantee, and it could involve difficult transitions. As automation changes how business operates, workers will have to change. “The skill sets required in both old and new occupations will change in most industries and transform how and where people work.” The impact of automation on the labor market means that there is a “need for proactive investment in developing a new surge of agile learners and skilled talent globally.” The responsibility to meet this need falls on both businesses and workers.

Tuition assistance plans are an opportunity for businesses to develop skilled workers and individuals to become agile learners. For businesses to be prepared to take advantage of new technology, improve their production and meet demands from an increasingly global market, they need to have employees who can work with it. Future of Jobs states, “businesses will need to recognize human capital investment as an asset rather than a liability.” Business production, growth and profits will not increase if workers do not have the skills, talents and ability to use new technology and automation.

When businesses strategically implement a tuition assistance plan, they are developing the power behind their workforce. They will be developing a workforce that can take advantage of new technology. And this is important for business success. “New technology adoption drives business growth, new job creation and augmentation of existing jobs.” But it can only do this if it can “leverage the talents of a motivated and agile workforce who are equipped with futureproof skills to take advantage of new opportunities through continuous retraining and upskilling.”

Individuals can prepare themselves for the impact of automation on the labor market by learning new skills and attaining higher education. Future of Jobs predicts that in the next four years, 54 percent of all employees will require significant retraining. Using an employer’s tuition assistance benefit is a strategic way to gain the retraining that will be beneficial as an employee. Workers who invest their time in pursuing higher education and training at the present will be most prepared in the near future. Retraining isn’t necessarily something that can be put on hold for later. Workers may find their upskilling needs taking anywhere from six months to more than a year, depending on the skills they are seeking.

Planning an education path as part of their tuition assistance benefit is a wise move for workers. Nothing will stay the same. Technology will continue to advance and workers will need to continually advance their education. The demand for people with IT skills, technology design, programming and other technological skills will continue to grow. With tuition assistance workers can keep learning skills that they will need to be a vital part of the labor force.

Soft skills such as creativity, critical thinking and the ability to work with others are important skills for now and the future, even beyond 2022. Problem solving, analyzing issues, and understanding multiple views are skills that make it possible for people to work with technology, and use it to its best advantage. These are the skills that make people “automation proof” and make automation an invaluable tool for the future. Tuition assistance benefits make it possible for people to develop skills so they can work with technology, and do what automation cannot.