techUK looks beyond the scare stories about job destruction to explore what the workplace will look like in 2030 – what new jobs will we see, what skills will be required, and what tech will be needed to make this vision a reality.
The UK is one of the world’s leading digital economies, expected to contribute £180bn to the overall economy this year – and at 10% of our GDP that’s a larger contribution than any other G20 country. If it sustains its growth then the UK’s digital economy will be contributing over £400bn by 2030, but in this timeframe will have become so entwined across the wider economy that it will be synonymous with ‘the economy’.
With this growth comes huge change. Technology is transforming jobs and workplaces around the UK. In offices and factories, tech has the potential to transform productivity, from reducing the admin burden and freeing up staff to focus on high value, high skilled work to virtually stimulating complex industrial design and test activities avoiding expensive and time consuming prototype building and real life testing. Better back office software, the use of AR and VR, a truly digital workplace will have a huge impact on when, where and how we work in the future.
The UK’s digital ecosystem is the engine driving forward the UK’s digital, and wider, economic growth, increased productivity and job creation. A 2015 study by Deloitte of 144 years of census data showed that tech is the “great job-creating machine” and over the last century has created more jobs than it has destroyed. Technology creates types of jobs and careers that often had not existed a few years before.
The research found that tech takes on hard, dull and dangerous jobs, freeing up time and resource for roles that require human creativity, empathy and interaction. Time and time again, tech inventions like the washing machine, have been changing how we spend our time and effort, freeing up time spent on menial tasks to focus on greater progress and development.
In a healthcare setting that might mean less admin, more caring – freeing up time from moving paper records around a hospital to spend more time assessing and meeting patients’ needs.
In manufacturing, digital technologies hold the potential to fend off the supposedly inevitable flow of jobs and business to ‘low pay economies’ by enhancing the efficiency, speed and quality of the entire manufacturing process. Digitisation will enable competition in manufacturing based on innovation, investment and availability of skills, whether it be in advanced or emerging nations.
In offices, digital solutions have brought transformation to all aspects of our working lives – from the way we manage our time, collaborate with our colleagues and communicate with the world at large. The one constant for all these transformations has been the desire to free us from the ‘chores’ of the office environment and enable us to focus on what makes us excited about work. The digital workplace is no longer (if ever it was) about the IT infrastructure owned by the IT Department, but about the functionality of the organisation as a whole.
Alongside the major opportunities of such industrial transformations, there are inevitably some risks. These range from fears about the disappearance of certain types of jobs to concerns about information security and ethics around intelligent machines.
By boldly addressing these challenges, the UK can establish itself as a global leader in both the development of the associated technologies and services as well as their adoption in the wider economy.
So how do we make this vision a reality, and what are the challenges blocking the path to true digital transformation?
The first is skills. A digital economy can only thrive if we have the talent and the skills to propel UK businesses to success. The UK tech sector needs the ability to retain, attract and build a talent pool that will fill the jobs of today and tomorrow.
Secondly, we need to see continued investment, not just in the tech industry but in the digital transformation of more traditional parts of the economy to create the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future.
We’ve already seen huge uptake and success in some sectors. Retail has been transformed by digital, with 20% of all sales now taking place online, and the in-store experience being transformed to meet the digital expectations of customers.
On 9 November, the tech community will come together to discuss what the future holds at our Supercharging the Digital Economy event. To keep moving forward, the tech industry needs to take our colleagues and our customers on a digital journey.