Up to 10.5 million jobs in the UK - equivalent to 30% of the workforce - are under threat from the rise of automation. But, while middle-tier workers are most at risk, those with data skills, and those who are willing to retrain to achieve them, could stave off the rise of the machines.
That is the conclusion of a new study entitled "Harnessing the Power of AI: The Demand for Future Skills", published by global recruiter Robert Walters and market intelligence firm Vacancy Soft.
The report claims the changes are already being felt across the workplace, with over 75 million jobs due to be lost across the world by 2020 as a result of the emergence of AI.
And with employment growth the greatest at the extreme ends of the spectrum - top and bottom 20% - there has been a "hollowing out" of jobs for the middle-tier workforce. Within the industry, this displacement has become known as the "automation paradox".
However, it is not all doom and gloom. Robert Walters principal Ollie Sexton explains that as businesses become ever more reliant on AI, there is increasing pressure on the processes of data capture and integration.
As a result, there has been an unprecedented number of "next generation" roles created with data skill-set at their core. In fact, data-related roles across the board have increased by 80% since 2015.
Sexton added: "What has been the most interesting to see is the emergence of data scientist as a mainstream profession – with job vacancies increasing by a 110% year-on-year. The same trend can be seen with data engineers, averaging 86% year-on-year job growth."
Three core industries are feeling the most pressure.
- In retail, AI is being used to drive consumers back to the high street. From self-checkout, and monitoring customer patterns and preferences, to using data to enhance the customer journey and in-store experience, the technology is increasingly being deployed to link online and offline channels.
- In business support, AI has been implemented at every level – from spam filters and smart emails, to smart personal assistants (Siri, Cortana, Google Now), automated customer support, and sales and business forecasting.
- Finally, in healthcare AI is making huge breakthroughs from Google’s DeepMind being taught to read retinal scans, healthcare apps saving hours of GP time, to patient safety, training and education, as well as improvements in bias, inequality and unfairness within the profession.
Robert Walters manager of advanced analytics and engineering Tom Chambers said: "The concern should not be about jobs being displaced, but whether our workforce is ready and prepared to accommodate a job boom within data and digitalisation.
"According to hiring managers within the tech field, 56% of professionals lack sufficient experience for the role, while a further 51% also lack the right technical skills."
Another recent Robert Walters survey of tech professionals found that just 10% of cyber security professionals, 31% of data management professionals, and 27% of software developers rated their skills as advanced.
Worryingly 40% of UK professionals employed within the AI-sphere stated that their job-specific skills were only at the ’beginner’ level.
Chambers concluded: "Historically the UK has been able to attract skilled IT and data professionals from across the EU – a quarter of tech professionals in Britain are from overseas - yet with the current political climate this may prove to become more of a challenge.
"The UK – in particular London – has an opportunity to be at the centre of the tech and AI revolution but growth and demand can only be met with the upskilling or retraining of mid-tier talent so that they don’t become redundant."