will robots take over manufacturing jobs?

  • career advice
  • May 25, 2017

Wrap your head around this one: a Pew Research Center survey says that almost half of industry experts believe artificial intelligence and robotics will eliminate a large portion of blue and white collar jobs by 2025.
And yet the other half is doubling down on the idea that “human ingenuity will create new jobs, industries and ways to make a living, just as it has since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.”
Wherever you stand on the issue, most experts and employers agree on a few things: 

automation has changed manufacturing forever

This is especially true for unskilled laborers who perform repetitive tasks that can be done more efficiently by machines. Conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation reports the number of manufacturing workers with high school education or less dropped 37 percent between 2000 and 2009.  
However, a report by James Bessen from the Boston University School of Law finds computer use and automation actually increases employment by 1.7 percent each year. 

we are not ready for the work of the future 

A 2015 study by the Manufacturing Institute shows that 3.4 million manufacturing jobs are expected to be available over the next decade as baby boomers retire and new opportunities arise.
But U.S. executives say a skills gap could leave up to 2 million of these jobs unfilled.
Manufacturing jobs are here and growing in numbers, but you can’t just show up at a plant after high school and get hired any longer. You need some specialized training and certifications,” says Chauncy Lennon, head of Workforce Initiatives at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

manufacturing is becoming a skilled profession

Many manufacturing roles now require additional training, certifications, a college education or advanced degrees.
Fred Dedrick, president and chief executive officer of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, makes the case for more training. “If you’re wrapping 300 Hershey chocolate kisses a minute, you need to know how to use a robot, and if you’re making tiny instruments for medical equipment, you need to understand mechatronics.” 
There is and will continue to be a growing need for people who are trained to design, program, operate and repair software, computers, robotics and other equipment. This doesn’t always mean a college education or advanced degree, but people with those qualifications may have an easier time adapting.

more meaningful work

Automation will free us up to do more meaningful work that focuses on uniquely human skills and capabilities. Organizations and people will always value uniquely human skills and traits like critical judgment, decision making, creativity, adaptation and on-the-job learning and experience.
Experts also point to a kind of human renaissance — where things like hands-on craftsmanship, artistry and local, small-scale work is valued.
“I anticipate that there will be a backlash ... and we’ll see a continued growth of artisanal products and small-scale [efforts] done myself or with a small group of others, that reject robotics and digital technology.”
-Tony Siesfeld, director of the Monitor Institute
Hands-on experience and skilled trades are difficult to automate and customized products and services don’t come off the assembly line.
The bottom line is that change is inevitable. Be open to it, see the possibility and make choices that position you as an expert in what you do now and down the road.  

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