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Young people without workplace skills fear competition from robots

Young people are worried they will not have the skills necessary to set themselves apart from robots when leaving education

The arrival of artificial intelligence (AI) will mean fewer jobs, according to three-quarters (76%) of young people.

Due to their lack of work experience, young people fear they don’t have some of the skills needed for them to stand out against robots.

The Young Enterprise charity, which supports young people with enterprise and financial education, polled 200 young entrepreneurs for its report entitled: Robot revolution: The impact of artificial intelligence on entrepreneurs and job prospects.

It found that 59% of respondents were concerned they would find it difficult to get jobs that a robot could do because they lacked the skills to differentiate themselves, such as team working and problem solving. A third of respondents said robots would force students to acquire these skills before leaving education.

A separate survey of 11,362 people in nine countries, carried out by YouGov for Konica Minolta, found that more than a quarter of workers believed 20% of their daily tasks could be automated through AI and robots, and 10% claimed up to 60% of their role could be taken over.

It also revealed that 45% of people globally expect AI technology to one day be capable of carrying out intangible, even creative tasks.

“The rise of the robots will have a devastating impact on job prospects for young people who have not been equipped with basic work skills,” said Michael Mercieca, CEO at Young Enterprise. “It’s time to wake up and recognise education must extend beyond academia and properly prepare the next generation for the world of work with skills like communication, teamwork and creativity.”

Train young people in soft skills

Employers recognise the importance of young people increasing their soft skills.

Sumanth Rao, director of international finance at Delta Air Lines, said investing in young people was essential to help them develop skills for the work environment and ensure they leave education with hands-on experience.

Read more about artificial intelligence in the enterprise sector

“Strong communication and people skills are increasingly needed in the workplace today,” said Rao.

Jeff Archambault, vice-president of corporate citizenship at the Walt Disney Company in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (Emea), said young people should be encouraged to explore technology while retaining their creativity.

“Creativity will always require the human touch, and state-of-the-art technologies can deliver new, unexpected experiences. That’s why it’s important that the next generation is supported to be at ease with both exploring robotics and artificial intelligence as well as creativity to help inspire new ways of working in an ever-changing world.”

Can new jobs come quickly enough?

The Young Enterprise report revealed scepticism about claims that AI and robots would eventually lead to the creation of more jobs, with just 10% believing this to be the case.

This view is shared by author Douglas Coupland, who wrote the novel Generation X: Tales for an accelerated culture, which tells the stories of a group of people born between the early 1960s and early 1980s, known as Generation X.

Speaking to Computer Weekly in April 2017, he said there was likely to be a period of uncertainty caused by the pace of change.

“People always say ‘Don’t worry, we will invent new job categories’, and I think in the past this has been more or less the case. But we are dealing with algorithmic technologies that have no historical or ontological precedence,” he said.

“We are at this hyper-accelerated pace now. We are going to lose jobs faster than we create them, and during that different zone it is going to be very politically unstable. I hope governments have a plan B.”

Read more on Artificial intelligence, automation and robotics