The increase of automation could very well become the most-defining development in the American workforce in the next several decades. Thus, we teens need to understand it, especially if we want to enter the working world successfully. If you find your knowledge about automation and its effects on the workplace lacking, here are quick answers to some of the most critical questions.
What is automation?
In short, automation is how tasks formerly performed by people transition to being performed by machines. Some prominent examples of automation today are in manufacturing, call centers, and data entry. However, you may be more familiar with smaller-scale automation using household appliances such as self-directed vacuums or smart kitchen appliances. In the future, we may see automation in even more pronounced forms such as self-driving cars.
What are the benefits of automation?
We all know that, in most basic tasks, computers can be faster, more accurate, and frequently less expensive than human employees; this increased efficiency is advantageous to employers for obvious reasons. However, research also suggests that automation can be beneficial to individual employees as well. By using automated machines as tools, employees can boost their productivity, which can, in turn, make them more valuable to their company and lead them to higher wages.
What are the downsides of automation?
Opponents of automation typically point to job loss as one of its major disadvantages. Given that, for the time being, computers can only perform relatively repetitive and low-skill jobs; lower-paying jobs are typically those that are eliminated due to automation. As a result, 76% of Americans believe widespread automation would increase systemic inequality between the rich and poor.
How will automation change the workforce?
Widespread automation will change the workforce in a variety of ways. By shifting workers away from low-skill, repetitive work, automation will require workers to do more dynamic, cognitive work, and ultimately, use different skills. For example, it may become more important to have strong emotional intelligence and intrapersonal skills, as these are the skills that cannot be easily replicated by machines. Similarly, using technology to innovate and adapt may be more important than simply understanding how a specific technology works.
How can I prepare?
Given that we cannot precisely predict how automation will develop in the next few years, there are very few concrete skills that we teens can learn right now to avoid being, for lack of a better term, replaced by robots. However, one way to protect yourself from being replaced is by choosing to work for companies that have embraced a learning mindset and are invested in upskilling or educating employees whose jobs will soon be automated—helping them adapt and fill other jobs instead of terminating them. Notable companies currently doing this include Amazon, L'Oreal, and Adobe.