Automation Risk For UK Jobs

Published on: 9 Mar 2018

A new report called Cities Outlook 2018, by Centre for Cities, predicts that automation could put as many as 3.6 million jobs in the UK at risk by the year 2030.

Warehousing is forecast to be amongst the sectors that are hit the worst, which could be a real threat to the food industry.

Split in job losses

Automated factoryIt looks as though the job losses will not be evenly distributed across the UK. Instead, the report identified some key areas that would suffer the most as automation becomes more a part of our industries. Cities in the north and the Midlands are more likely to struggle, with wealthier cities in the south able to continue without much job loss.

Freight Transport Association’s head of licensing policy and compliance information, James Firth, said of the report: “The Centre for Cities report identifies one of the key issues facing the logistics sector over the coming decades. Increasing use of automation will inevitably lead to changes in working patterns throughout the supply chain. However, we expect this to be a very gradual process and there will still be a need for human workers, albeit in different roles.”

Indeed, this is a trend that has been predicted for some time. Michael Gove was recently quoted as saying that the food and drink industry should no longer be hiring low-cost migrant workers. Instead, they should be focusing on automated production systems. Of course, this may be simply a convenient answer to the concerns many have raised about the status of workers after Brexit.

The top three cities which may face losses are Mansfield, Sunderland, and Wakefield, according to the research carried out for the report. They are far from the only areas to be affected, but a severe dearth of jobs over a short period of time could spell disaster local economies and force job seekers to move out of the region.

New opportunities

As Firth suggests, there could still also be opportunities for new food jobs, so long as everything is set up properly. Centre for Cities Chief Executive Andrew Carter also supports this view, and places an emphasis on training as being essential for getting people into these new jobs.

“That means reforming the education system to give young people the cognitive and interpersonal skills they need to thrive in the future, and improving school standards, especially in places where jobs are most at risk,” said Carter. “We also need greater investment in lifelong learning and technical education to help adults adapt to the changing labour market, and better retraining for people who lose their jobs because of these changes.”

The onus, it seems, will be on education to prepare the emerging workforce for a new wave of automation after they leave school. If this is the case, then the current workforce may well struggle to compete – leaving it in the hands of local councils, then, to find ways to retrain adults who need to get back into the job market.

These changes may seem far away, but they are afoot even now. It will be a gradual wave of change over the course of the next 12 years that makes the overall difference, rather than one big shift in the year 2030. That means that both employers and employees need to be keeping it in mind even today.

Machine MaintenanceIf you wish to retrain now and get ahead of the curve, there are a number of colleges, universities, and short course providers covering the operational and maintenance of the kind of machinery used in food manufacturing facilities.