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Candidates seek automation-proof roles

As ONS figures reveal that automation could jeopardise 1.5 million jobs, separate research suggests workers are concerned about this

Three in five (56%) job candidates are seeking roles that won't be affected by automation, according to a survey from Volvo Construction Equipment.

Of those UK and US workers surveyed, a third (32%) are concerned that almost half of all jobs will be taken over by autonomous machinery and AI in the future. That figure falls among older workers, with those aged 55 and above believing robots will displace workers across only 11% to 24% of today’s jobs. This compares to those aged 16 to 24 who believe it will displace 25% to 49% of today’s jobs.

The survey found that workers are anxious to safeguard their careers from the rising competition posed by AI, with positions in customer services (34%), banking (25%) and travel agencies (23%) seen to be most at risk.

In construction, one of the largest global industries, almost half of workers in the sector (48%) cited machine operators as most at risk.

However, the findings showed cause for optimism in certain industries. Forty per cent of respondents believe IT and telecoms will benefit the most from AI and automation, followed by manufacturing and utilities (34%) and travel and transport (22%).

Volvo Group automation specialist Christian Grante said that changes in the workplace brought by automation should not necessarily be viewed as negative.

“Automation will inevitably affect the way we work. But not for the worst. Yes jobs will change, but this technology will allow us to do more things, more efficiently and more safely. In an industry like construction it is likely we will see some of the biggest benefits. Our experienced operators can be upskilled to handle not just one machine but instead oversee a number of machines at the same time, allowing for much greater productivity,” he said.

The research comes as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures suggesting 7.4% of jobs in the UK (1.5 million) are at high risk of automation. This is down from 8.1% in 2011.

Meanwhile, the percentage of jobs at low and medium risk of automation has risen to 27.7% (5.5 million), a rise of 2.4%. The ONS said that as the majority of new roles are deemed to be at low or medium risk, automation may already have made a mark on Britain’s job market.

Peter Gold, principal consultant at Cornerstone OnDemand, advised organisations to adapt their hiring methods to deal with an automated workforce.

“The data from ONS is the wake-up call employers need and they should be reconsidering their recruitment strategy and re-skilling their employees in order to create a sustainable future-ready workforce. Organisations that still hire via sifting through CVs, for example, could be missing out on key talent because the CV in its current format does not consider skills such as empathy, social skills and communication – skills that will be much more in demand as jobs are automated,” he said.

“Employers should be implementing a skills-based hiring strategy, using modern tools like video and AI-generated candidate searches, in order to measure soft skills. Rather than see robots as a threat to our workforce we should be utilising the skills that robots don’t have in order to work in tandem with them.”

A survey of 2,219 people from the UK and US was carried out by Volvo Construction Equipment in conjunction with Censuswide in early-2019.