UK demand for digital automation skills soars

The need for automation proficiency has more than doubled in the past two years, according to research

Demand for digital automation skills is rising in the UK as businesses try to find ways to support workers by removing repetitive tasks, according to research.

The need for automation proficiency is accelerating faster in non-technical roles such as management consultants and sales directors, up by 125% since 2019, than in traditional IT roles, which are up by 96%, according to a survey carried out by specialist recruiter Robert Half and global labour market trends expert Burning Glass.

According to the research, which analysed nine million UK job postings, the number of roles requiring automation capabilities is set to reach around 90,000 this year, compared with 39,323 in 2019.

“These findings show that businesses understand they need to find ways to support and supplement their workers by removing more repetitive tasks and freeing them up to focus on more value-add activity,” said Matt Weston, managing director at Robert Half UK.

Sales directors are increasingly being tasked with improving efficiency, and are hence turning to automation, including software that auto-fills client contact forms during phone calls or using artificial intelligence to support on-the-job training, according to Weston.

“Executives should be reviewing their learning and development programmes to make sure they are able to provide the skills most urgently needed”
Matt Weston, Robert Half UK

As automation becomes more pervasive in the workplace, roles and job functions will change significantly, he said. Citing numbers from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) that about 21 million UK workers will need digital upskilling in the coming decade with automation as a key area of focus, the executive argued that this ongoing change also meant it was important for businesses to invest in continuous training.

“Executives should be reviewing their learning and development programmes to make sure they are able to provide the skills most urgently needed,” said Weston.

In addition, the Robert Half executive noted that businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), should take advantage of government support to help with digital upskilling, such as the Help to Grow scheme announced by chancellor Rish Sunak in this year’s Budget.

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