From education to employment

13% of the public believes that there should be a limit on the use of robots at work #FutureOfEmployment

Almost a quarter of the public believe the UK needs ethical laws to govern the work robots can do. Employers and employees will need to work alongside robots and machines in everyday life.

Certain tasks, rather than specific occupations, will be under threat from Artificial Intelligence (AI), and therefore no job will be immune, according to a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Roles will change not just in repetitive manual labour, but in clerical and professional positions too.

Automation and Autonomy highlights that the impact of AI on jobs will come in waves, with the first happening in the next five years and other roles involving more complex manual tasks, or social and literacy skills, taking longer to disappear, over the next twenty years.

The report highlights that 27% of all workers are concerned about losing their jobs.

Healthcare is predicted to be the industry most affected by AI, as it transforms diagnosis, decision making and treatment. At a time when the NHS is facing a recruitment crisis, with parts of NHS England only able to fill one in 400 nursing vacancies, AI robots could potentially help clinicians with logistical tasks, thereby freeing up time for other duties.

Already over one quarter of NHS hospitals which perform operations use robotic devices to assist in operating theatres. 

Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said:

“The most significant risk we face with AI is its rapid pace of development and adoption. Our way of life is changing quickly, and we need to be developing considered policies that reflect the fact that AI will feature in every aspect of our lives. This includes considering education and training opportunities, as well as society’s wider safety nets for those who may find the transition to the world of the Fourth Industrial Revolution more difficult.

“While not many occupations will be entirely automatable, around 60% are estimated to have 30% technically automatable activities. It is more likely that occupations will have to adapt and evolve, rather than being completely replaced by machines. Instead of fearing them, people will need to learn to work alongside machines, and develop up-to-date skills needed for this new age of automation.”

Automation and Autonomy recommends three priority areas for action:

  1. The current UK Government Industrial Strategy increases its emphasis on research & development as well as skills and lifelong learning, as part of its Grand Challenge to put the UK at the forefront of artificial intelligence and the data and automation revolution.
  2. Innovate UK investments in digital technology, especially the Digital Catapult, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and the Knowledge Transfer Network 4Manufacturing, are incentivised to work with schools, colleges and universities to strengthen the links between the needs of the digital economy, and current teaching and learning.
  3. A campaign of public engagement, building on Year of Engineering 2018, is created to increase public understanding, and also influence Government and industry policy regarding the future development and adoption of automation and autonomy for societal benefit.

About The Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Established in 1847 and has some of the world’s greatest engineers in its history books. It is one of the fastest growing professional engineering institutions. Headquartered in London, we have operations around the world and over 120,000 members in more than 140 countries working at the heart of the most important and dynamic industries such as the automotive, rail, aerospace, medical, power and construction industries. 

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