Yet in parallel, ‘economic inequality within countries is rising’ (8) and RPA or ‘[software] automation, is critical for understanding [this]’ (1).
Why? Software automation, a core tenet of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR) represents a ‘fundamental change in the way we live, work and relate to one another’ and as then Minister for Digital, Matt Hancock said in 2017, represents ‘one of the greatest challenges we face, as a nation, and as a world’ (3). This is because FIR technologies like RPA, allow us to not only automate production, but also ‘knowledge’ (5). The effect of this, McKinsey predicts, is that 15% of the global workforce could be displaced by automation by 2030 and will need to retrain or risk being replaced by digital workers (robots) (7).
The challenge, as highlighted by a 2017 IPPR report is the ‘impact of automation inequality will depend on the skill level of the new jobs created and individual’s ability to access [these] opportunities’ (9). Additionally, the skills, ‘needed to take full advantage of the automation economy are different from those that have been emphasised by Higher Education institutions in the past’ and ‘there is a global dearth of talent in this area’ (5). The problem here, simply put, is that these skills are not being taught.
This paradox I have dubbed the ‘Automation Paradox’ in a recent essay for my MSt in Sustainability Leadership and it is this paradox that represents the sustainability challenge that Blue Prism For Good is looking to tackle in by focusing on educating the young people of today for the jobs of tomorrow.
Last year Blue Prism For Good sponsored the EYFoundation Smart Futures Programme in the UK and helped 10 young people from low-income families complete paid work experience with us over the summer. It was an incredible experience for everyone involved, despite the complexities COVID threw up; but most prominently it opened up my eyes as to the power of giving young people an opportunity for an immersive learning experience and the chance to meet like minded individuals. After winning EYF partner of the year, I was even more set to build upon this further and make it a lasting programme.
In 2021 we’ve gone even further and are sponsoring the EYFoundation Tech Smart futures programme alongside other organizations; we’ve also launched our first automation apprenticeship aimed at black and minority ethnic young people and we have 4 joining the internal automation team I lead in the summer. Finally, we’ve chosen The Good Things Foundation, an awesome charity that tackles digital exclusion in the UK and Australia, as our UK charity partner for the year.
The hope is that by beginning to turn the fly wheel, to make opportunities specifically for those people most affected by the automation paradox and to promote the education and training of more and more people in the skills they need to thrive in tomorrow’s world – is absolutely the way to begin affirmatively overcoming the growing inequality that risks undermining the many benefits that automation could bring to society.
While I’m heartened to see some organizations taking up the charge on this battle alongside us here at Blue Prism; we urgently need governments, tech leaders and educators to recognise that this issue isn’t going to go away and is only going to get worse unless we recognise automation as a revolution, that needs to be managed appropriately. We need to teach the skills needed to thrive in this revolution to the future workforce of tomorrow - our young people - and we needed to start this yesterday.
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