Jobs of the future: AI, robots and technology

With access to technology becoming commonplace, what affect does this have on the job market and how can the technical education sector flex to support learners within the new status quo?

A pioneer in the technology sector, Alan Turing is to become the face on the new £50 note. He and his colleagues’ efforts at Bletchley Park on decryption and early computer algorithms are some of the cornerstones of modern technology advances. This recognition gives us the opportunity to reflect on the short period of time in which the world has become almost unrecognisable and look forward to the future.

Technology takeover

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (or 4IR) is here to stay and is beginning to show how it will impact on our personal, learning and working lives.

Access to a smartphone, tablet, PC or laptop on a daily basis to help “arrange” our day to day movements is more common place than ever, with almost three quarters (72.6%) of people expected to access the web via their smartphone by 2025. Technology is quite literally at the tip of (most) everyone’s fingertips.

In your home, you might well be used to bellowing shopping lists at Alexa or shouting “Hey, Google! Turn the music down”. Not long ago, talking as if to oneself in the hopes that a robot might respond was something of science-fiction but now, intelligent virtual assistants (IVA) or intelligent personal assistants (IPA) such as SIRI, Amazon Echo, Cortana and Google Home, access intelligent software programmes to remind us and manage aspects of our lives such as shopping, heating and lighting.

Technology and education

In the education sector, every education provider has an IT system or at least access to one. Students can submit their papers electronically which are automatically scanned for plagiarism and feedback is received digitally without having seen a tutor in the flesh (although, this is certainly not recommended).

There are now software programmes available that are intuitive and diagnose learner skill shortage, such as Skills Forward, or which can respond and adapt their content Century Tech. Where is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and technology leading the learner of the future?

Augmented reality is technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view. Virtual Reality (VR) is a simulated experience that can be similar to, or completely different from, the real world. Both of these pieces of technology can be used to great effect: to enhance a real experience, to experience something under safe conditions or to experience something literally out of this world.

The government has so far spent £100m on IT centres of excellence and upskilling educators. One of the first tranche of the new T Levels is Digital with a number of pathways to follow and specialise in. Indeed many initiatives are both up and running or ready to launch. Technology is firmly at the forefront of the technical education reforms.

The rise in automation

Perhaps the most changes to take place will be the workplace. Although some jobs will never be wholly overtaken by machines, some will succumb to increasing automation. Engineering and manufacturing already have many robotic processes in place, serviced by human technicians. There are also an increasing number of technology solutions being used in frontline healthcare such as auto dosing of medicines and monitoring blood pressure, heart rate etc. In fact, a robotic surgery device called Versius was unveiled last year as an answer to increasing day surgery costs.

In the service industries, many routine jobs may see a demise due to increasing automation of filing and checking documents. Numerous legal companies use AI programmes to examine past cases to use as evidence for clients, the civil service uses a series of software interactions when recruiting new staff, outdoor companies use cognitive computing technology to ask questions about where customers will be wearing a coat and what they’ll be doing. It’ll then “choose” the right coat to wear.

You can’t replace creativity

We could fill many more pages with examples of where, how and why AI, technology and robotic process and replacements could be used. What we need to be aware of is that, at present, technology will not replace the majority of jobs, but will support those workers to become more efficient and effective. As technology develops further, new jobs will replace those lost – jobs such as virtual work designer, rewilding strategist, intangible asset manager and online creative storyteller.

Jobs that involve higher level cognitive and interpretive functions - in other words decision making, complex problem solving and elements of empathy, and creativity – are highly unlikely to ever be replaced by a robot or AI programme. Sometimes we really do need a human touch.

At NCFE, we’re keeping up to date and ahead of the game with our AI and VR activities and development. For school age learners, our Go Calm application is powered by a neuro-feedback headset and is designed to help manage exam stress.

For learners in sectors such as Health and Social Care, Playwork and even young people studying Relationships, Sex and health Education, our PregnancyVue application simulates child development from conception to birth.

It’s an exciting time for education and technology and the technical education sector has the agility and foresight to ensure it meets a positive destination.

Josh Dixon
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