Re­gional jobs at risk of au­to­ma­tion

The Free Press (Corowa) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAR­RYD BARCA

More than 1,400 jobs in the Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil area are of tech­no­log­i­cal threat, ac­cord­ing to the Re­gional Aus­tralia In­sti­tute (RAI).

Nearly 29 per cent of jobs in the coun­cil area are rated as ‘highly vul­ner­a­ble’ to au­to­ma­tion, with hos­pi­tal­ity work­ers, sales as­sis­tants and sales­per­sons and food process work­ers the most at risk.

In fact, al­most 75 per cent of Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil jobs (3,594 of 4,862) are rated as at least mod­er­ately vul­ner­a­ble.

It’s all ac­cord­ing to the RAI’s re­gional job au­to­ma­tion pack, which de­vel­oped a data tool to take a close look into each lo­cal gov­ern­ment area in Aus­tralia as a fu­ture of ro­bots beck­ons.

While ad­mit­ting mod­ern tech­nol­ogy has been slowly re­plac­ing em­ploy­ment po­si­tions for a num­ber of years, Corowa Busi­ness Cham­ber Pres­i­dent Mary Hetherington told The Free Press the sta­tis­tics aren’t too alarm­ing.

“The na­ture of work that hu­mans per­form has al­ways evolved and changed. As in­di­vid­u­als we need to recog­nise this, up­skill and re­train ap­pro­pri­ately,” Ms Hetherington said.

“Ob­vi­ously, it is al­ways a con­cern for the growth of a re­gional area to have suf­fi­cient em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties but with new tech­nol­ogy comes the op­por­tu­nity for the cre­ation of jobs that we are not even aware that ex­ist yet.

“I am sure that the black­smiths in their day were con­cerned each time they saw a new au­to­mo­bile on the road.

“Mod­ern tech­nol­ogy is a grad­ual de­vel­op­ing process, so we will be re­ly­ing on busi­nesses to

take the im­i­ta­tive and de­velop new in­dus­try and tech­nol­ogy for fu­ture em­ploy­ment.”

RAI CEO Jack Archer shared sim­i­lar thoughts to Ms Hetherington, say­ing while it is true some jobs will be lost or dra­mat­i­cally changed due to au­to­ma­tion, many new jobs will be cre­ated in the process and now is the time to start pre­par­ing the com­mu­ni­ties.

“It’s the first time lead­ers have in­sights at their fin­ger­tips that are both prac­ti­cal and use­ful in help­ing them con­sider the is­sues in their com­mu­nity,” Mr Archer said.

Ms Hetherington said the best way to im­prove labour mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties in the town is to “en­cour­age in­dus­try that is best suited to our area and per­haps not as likely to be sus­cep­ti­ble to au­to­ma­tion”.

She also lauded Corowa TAFE’s Con­nected Learn­ing Cen­tre, say­ing it’s a cur­rent way the coun­cil area is cater­ing for the fu­ture.

“This train­ing cen­tre has the po­ten­tial to in­crease the amount and va­ri­ety of cour­ses al­ready pro­vided so it would be great to see it reach its full po­ten­tial,” Ms Hetherington said.

“Many lo­cal re­gional busi­nesses in truck­ing, en­gi­neer­ing and trades for ex­am­ple have the po­ten­tial to ex­pand if skilled work­ers are avail­able lo­cally.”

The Re­gional Job Au­to­ma­tion Pack is the first re­lease from the RAI’s Fu­ture of Re­gional Jobs In­quiry Pro­gram. Fur­ther work over com­ing months will build on this knowl­edge, pro­vid­ing re­gions with more in­for­ma­tion about job cre­ation op­por­tu­ni­ties in re­gional Aus­tralia.

“Some re­gional ar­eas are more sus­cep­ti­ble to au­to­ma­tion than oth­ers, and each re­gion also has a unique set of strengths and weak­nesses to deal with the chang­ing na­ture of work,” Mr Archer said.

“Heart­land re­gions have the low­est per­cent­age of highly vul­ner­a­ble jobs, but are of­ten less able to adapt to new tech­nolo­gies due to lack of nec­es­sary in­fras­truc­ture and ex­per­tise.

Re­gional cities, on the other hand, have the great­est pro­por­tion of jobs highly vul­ner­a­ble to au­to­ma­tion. How­ever, re­gional cities have an ad­van­tage in man­ag­ing change as they are bet­ter placed when it comes to avail­abil­ity of tech­no­log­i­cal in­fras­truc­ture and pro­fes­sion­als.

“Our re­search demon­strates re­gional cities have the ca­pac­ity to trans­form more read­ily due to their in­creased level of in­no­va­tion, en­tre­pre­neur­ial skills, tech­no­log­i­cal readi­ness and a ca­pa­ble lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor to help them adapt,” Mr Archer said.

Mr Archer said while there are less highly vul­ner­a­ble jobs in ru­ral ar­eas, it may be more dif­fi­cult for these ar­eas to re­spond un­less there are changes to lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices and en­gage­ment.

“What this in­for­ma­tion em­pha­sises is that as the work­force struc­ture changes in re­gional Aus­tralia, com­mu­ni­ties need to be look­ing at how they will build lo­cal skills and new busi­nesses that align to the job de­mands of the fu­ture,” he said.

Tech­nol­ogy has cer­tainly re­shaped the work­place; self-serve check­outs, air­port ma­chine check-ins and the Wash­ing­ton Post’s ro­bot news-breaker are just a few ex­am­ples.

School teach­ers, ac­com­mo­da­tion and hos­pi­tal­ity man­agers and con­struc­tion, distribution and pro­duc­tion man­agers in the Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil re­gion can breathe a sigh of re­lief, who work in the three least vul­ner­a­ble oc­cu­pa­tions.

Ma­jor air­line com­pa­nies have al­ready adopted check in tech­nol­ogy that re­places tasks that peo­ple have tra­di­tion­ally car­ried out.

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