A recent report from the Brookfield Institute says that 42% of the Canadian workforce is at high risk of being replaced by computers and technology in the next 20 years. Suncor Energy is already planning to replace its fleet with autonomous trucks by 2020, which will lead to the permanent loss of thousands of oil sands jobs. Earlier this year Google’s AlphaGo program beat Lee Se-dol, the world’s best Go player. What makes AlphaGo different from other AI programs is that it doesn’t play by any specific algorithm to win. Instead, it learns from its mistakes and plays better after each game, which is similar to how we humans learn. 🙂 In the past automation has been restricted to laborious, routine tasks such as assembly lines in manufacturing. But new breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, and faster hardware have pushed automation into cognitive occupations, such as driving and customer services.
The report puts a 70% or higher probability that high risk jobs will be affected by automation over the next 10 to 20 years. These “high risk” jobs include:
- Retail salesperson
- Administrative assistant
- Food counter attendant
- Transport truck driver
However, there are also low risk jobs that have less than 30% chance of being affected by automation. These are usually higher paying jobs which requires critical thinking, people skills, and tend to be in the science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM.) These positions include:
- Trade managers
- Registered nurses
- Primary and secondary school teachers
Naturally the careers that require higher cognitive and judgement abilities are at low risk of being replaced by machine or software.
If you believe your job may be at high risk of automation then it’s best to learn some new technical skills or transition into a different position of lower risk. Being good with computers and technology will always help, and as time goes on the technical standards will increase. At one point in time being able to type 50 words a minute was considered a legitimate computer skill to include in your resume. But boasting about this common ability today would just be silly.
The institute mentioned that jobs deemed at high risk in the study are disproportionately held by younger people between 15 and 24 years, while workers in lower risk jobs tend to be “prime-aged workers,” between 25 and 54. This is good news since it’s easier for younger adults to learn new technology skills than middle aged workers.
In British Columbia, the government announced it will spend $2 million to train teachers and develop a coding curriculum for students between grades 6 to 9. The plan is for B.C. students to learn computer coding as a mandatory part of their classes starting in 2018. A couple million dollars is a small investment relative to the hundreds of thousands of students in the system, but at least it’s a start. 🙂
I don’t think everyone should become a 1337 programmer, but being able to utilize desktop publishing software and online tools in an everyday work environment would be a great asset for any business looking to hire in the future. But that being said, it’s also important to find a job that we enjoy doing. 🙂 Don’t be like this guy.
Random Useless Fact:
Barack Obama once said, “unless you are Native American, your family came from somewhere else”