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Published 10 October 2012 04:54, Updated 11 October 2012 05:00
One of the employment challenges of the future may be coming up with ways to create new jobs at a faster rate than existing ones are lost to robots.
In a classroom in Louisville, Colorado, there are 13 adults and one teenager who are about to become fully fledged computer programmers. In just 11 weeks, they have gained qualifications that would normally require a four-year university degree.
This is rapid learning – and it is the way of the future.
Industry is crying out for programmers but it takes too long to train them.
So the DaVinci Institute, a non-profit think tank, has stripped away all the course work it deems unnecessary to quickly skill people up for employment.
The executive director of the institute, futurist Thomas Frey, says the students are required to do 10½ hours of classroom hours a week and up to 40 hours a week on their own.
“If they do all of that, they will definitely succeed,” says Frey, who spent 15 years as an engineer at IBM.
“We cut out all the theory. We are not making them study english literature or chemistry. All they are doing is just coding.”
The oldest student is 57 and the youngest 14 and they are preparing to enter an industry where they can expect to earn $US50,000 in their first year and up to $US90,000 after two or three years on the job.
“That’s pretty good money,” says Frey.
Employers have been showing a great deal of interest in his graduates, who will be the first through the DaVinci program, he says.
“Employers don’t care if you are credentialled or not – they just care if you can do the work.”
The shortage of talent will be back upon us before we know it. In eight years’ time, half of all computer programming jobs will be unfilled, says Frey.
And it won’t just be IT workers that are thin on the ground. Highly trained people in many areas will be hard to find and prohibitively expensive to hire.
On the other side of the equation are jobs that will be rendered obsolete through increased automation. “The futurist community says 60 per cent of all jobs in 10 years from now, haven’t been invented yet,” says Frey. “We are creating new jobs right and left.”
“I actually predict more than 2 billion jobs will go away by 2030,” says Frey.
“That isn’t intended to be a doom and gloom prediction – it is a wake-up call.”
Occupations on the way out include:
Drivers – taxi, bus and delivery drivers will be replaced by driverless vehicles, computerised pilots will fly planes.
Teachers and trainers – online courses are growing in popularity.
Clothing makers and retailers – 3D printing means everyone can “suit” themselves.
Fishers, miners and farmers – their work will be done by robots.
Cashiers – there will be a further spread of self-service.
Soldiers – “bots” will be sent to war.
Frey warns that systems and mechanisms have to be developed to create jobs at a faster rate to keep up with demand and also to make up for the jobs that are lost.
“The transition offers us opportunities for loads of new positions.”
Another futurist, Kevin Wheeler, says employers are already on the case, sorting through the jobs they provide.
“People right now are looking at what jobs are viable,” he says.
Wheeler, Frey and other management theorists describe the workplace of the future as a vastly slimmed-down environment.
The chief executive of the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency, Robin Shreeve, says there is a view that young people will view permanent employment as “a form of slavery”.
The big trends are: the rise of the contingent workforce, micro jobs and automation. All three are well under way.
Already, unions claim 40 per cent of Australians now work on a contingent basis as contractors, consultants, casuals and temporary staff.
Wheeler says: “I think you are going to see big increases in temporary, part-time and contract work. There are already more [contingent workers] in Australia than in the US and Europe. You are unique in that, and that was a surprise to me.”
Wheeler says contingent work in the US is still quite rare, maybe employing 5 per cent of the workforce [largely due to employers taking responsibility for employee healthcare]”.
Highly skilled people are becoming prohibitively expensive to hire and retain, so they will exist as freelancers or contractors and will be brought in for their expertise only when needed.
High-cost jobs will be stripped of duties that do not require years of tertiary education. Those duties will then be passed on to unskilled and semi-skilled workers who can be quickly trained.
Many jobs that do not need a human touch will be automated.
“Employers have an obligation to hire the least number of people they can get away with,” says Frey.