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Advances in Technology

In the not too distant future, millions of jobs in such sectors as accounts and auditing will be replaced with machines that can do the same tasks much more cheaply and effectively than human workers – without requiring salaries, holidays or sick pay. According to Oxford University academics Carl Frey and Michael Osborne administrators, paralegals and bank clerks will also be hit hard by the emerging technologies.

Analysis shows that over half of all secretarial jobs in the UK have already disappeared over the last ten years and apparently advances in speech recognition software and other technologies mean  that  call centre employees are also predicted to disappear in the next decade.  Imagine how frustrating that would be!

Can it be that the old joke about the factory of the future only needs one human and one dog to keep it running – a dog to ensure that no one tampers with the machines and a human to feed the dog – could be true?

In a recent Panorama programme Margaret Davies who worked at the HMRC Tax office for 26 years was featured.  Advances in technology meant that more of us are doing our taxes on line, which resulted in Margaret and 33 of her colleagues being made redundant and their offices closed.  Traditional middle class jobs are increasingly vulnerable to technology. The question is are we and our education systems prepared for these changing times?

According to two professors from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we need to drag our education system into the 21st century.  Computer Science needs to be embedded at the heart of our national skills agenda and we need to ensure that more adults in the UK have the opportunity to learn coding, the language of computers to enable them to work with and develop software and robotics.

Thankfully machines are still likely to be relatively poor at creativity, empathy and problem solving.  Creative writing, entrepreneurship and scientific discoveries are all areas where humans beat machines hands down.

Recent research makes it clear that social skills and emotional intelligence are increasingly in demand.  Losing occupations does not necessarily mean losing jobs - just changing what people do. Are we ready for that challenge?

Louise Hewett

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