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A third of jobs could become redundant as a result of digitisation

Around 12 million jobs could significantly change or become redundant by 2024 as a result of the adoption of digital technologies

As the adoption of digital technologies increases, around 37% of jobs are likely to change dramatically or become redundant over the next five years, according to research.

The Open University found more than a third of jobs could cease to exist altogether as a result of digital technology and automation, with around 12 million jobs likely to be affected.

Most organisations are already lacking in digitally skilled staff, with 88% claiming they already have a digital skills gap that is affecting productivity and innovation, and half predicting this gap will widen as technology adoption increases.

“Digital technologies have already disrupted entire industries,” said Jane Dickinson, digital skills lead at the Open University. “Yet despite clear threats to the workforce and profitability, many organisations continue to underestimate the importance of building digital skills – and while they continue to take a short-term approach, the shortage will only continue to grow.”

There have already been suggestions that a shift towards life-long learning will be necessary in the future as roles adapt and change to match pace with the technology sector.

But while 78% of firms believe offering training to existing workers would help tackle skills gaps in the long term, more than half said hiring talent with the right skills was cheaper, resulting in a lot of firms fishing in the same limited pool for talent.

While not all jobs are at risk from automation, it is likely all roles in the future will require at least a basic level of digital skills that many adults in the UK still lack.

“With an uncertain future posing a challenge to the workforce, it is crucial that employers access the wealth of talent already within their organisation”
Jane Dickinson, Open University

Many of those asked were not aware their job would be at significant risk as a result of a lack of the right digital skills.

Some firms have started to consider retraining their internal employees to cope with digital adoption, with an average training budget increase of 13% over the past 12 months. This brings the average training spend to £58,750, up from £52,150.

Half of employees are keen to improve their digital skills through training.

“With an uncertain future posing a challenge to the future workforce, it is crucial that employers access the wealth of talent already within their organisation,” said Dickinson. “By using training budgets to develop workers, including local skills retraining funding and apprenticeship levy funding, organisations can build up the skills they need to become resilient, flexible and adaptable in the face of future challenges.”

More than 80% of leaders said moving towards a model of continuous learning would be necessary in the near future, and many managers said employees who had been trained in digital skills were more productive and engaged.

But there are other issues on the horizon that threaten to widen the digital skills gap, with half of firms claiming Brexit could have an impact on access to digital talent.  

When the UK announced it would leave the European Union, one of the tech industry’s main concerns was the need for home-grown technical talent to act as a safety net for firms likely to lose out on tech talent from overseas.

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