More than 90 million workers across Europe (about 40% of the total workforce) will have to develop significant new skills within their current roles in the next ten years, as automation puts 51 million jobs at risk, warns a report released in June by analyst firm McKinsey.
In other words, up-skilling and re-training the workforce will jump to the top of the to-do list for business leaders in the years to come. The trend has only been further accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis: McKinsey’s report suggests the jobs most at risk from automation are also those that the pandemic has made more vulnerable.
So, where can we expect to find those “growing occupations”? Generally speaking, and in continuation of a long-standing trend, manufacturing and agriculture are losing weight in favor of services. More specifically, McKinsey analysts predict that human health and social work will see the strongest growth, followed by professional, scientific and technical services, as well as education.
Demand for socio-emotional skills will grow by up to a third, said the report, as human workers focus on roles that machines can’t fulfill, which require interaction, care-giving, teaching and training, as well as managing others.
It’s not only about future workers, though. Many employees are currently working in jobs that will change because of automation: McKinsey’s analysts predicted that about 22% of workforce activities across the EU could be automated by 2030.
To succeed alongside robots in new types of work, employees will need skills that they don’t currently have. The concept of “lifelong learning” will gather pace, therefore, as workers acquire new knowledge throughout their careers. It will be largely up to employers to initiate programs to re-train their staff and ensure success in a more automated workplace.
Equally, some new opportunities might emerge to enable a smoother transition for workers. Robotics company Universal Robots, for example, is already deploying “cobots” (or collaborative robots) to businesses, which are designed to simplify the use of automation for human employees.
The company has developed online courses, which it claims enable workers with no engineering background to program a “cobot” in only 87 minutes. The method, according to Universal Robots, reverses the idea that automation is taking jobs away from humans, and instead gives tools to employees to better control their day-to-day activities.