News Article

Robots, Automation to Create Employment Opportunities

By Antonio Gozain | Thu, 10/14/2021 - 15:38

You can watch the video of this panel here.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), robots and automation are commonly seen as threats to employees among all industries. Although these technologies could make certain human skills obsolete, they create opportunities for workers to relocate themselves in their companies while accessing more secure, less-risky positions, agreed industry experts.

“Whether the robots will take humans’ jobs or not is an unfair discussion. Humanity has come this far thanks to the help of technology, which has already superseded tons of jobs throughout the history. Robots automate many processes and help us be more human. Labor dissatisfaction rates are big in repetitive, low-intellectual jobs,” said Federico Barcos Von der Heide, Founder & CEO of PeopleOPTI.

Machines, and technology in general, have ended jobs for centuries. About 400,000 jobs were lost to automation in US factories from 1990 to 2007, according to Time. However, technology advances more rapidly than ever before and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated numerous processes. Around 50 percent of the jobs in Mexico could be eventually lost to automation, according to the World Bank.

Although it is clear that robots will continue substituting repetitive, simple tasks currently performed by humans, they will transform human capital demand, according to Felipe Armando Villarreal, CEO of Alian Plastics. “The pandemic gave us a view that we may have never seen otherwise. Technology and humans are stronger together. Soft skills will play a key role for humans to keep their jobs or migrate safely to a new position,” said Villarreal. Furthermore, the automation of manufacturing industries considerably reduces risk for employees.

The labor market is undergoing a radical transition, generating big gaps between jobs offered and skills available, said Daphne S. Leger, CEO & Founder of Atrevidea. This gap has made data scientists one of the most required talents in the last years, agreed experts. “Some years ago, between 50 and 54 percent of companies faced issues to attract talent, and the number went up to 75 percent, according to ManPower Group. This means that academia, schooling and preparation has failed to cover industry’s demand,” said Lissy Giacoman, CEO & Co-Founder of Vinco.

One of the biggest challenges for all players involved is what to do with those employees who have been replaced by machines, said Giacoma. “The first alternative is reskilling. Our job is to help the operating staff in the transition to their future jobs in our companies or elsewhere.” Automation also requires new sets of skills for the employees, who may be trained through reskilling or upskilling to meet the current needs of companies, explained Giacoman. Soft skills, such as effective communication, leadership, creativity and customer service, have become more important than ever.

Automation will relocate about 85 million jobs across the world in the near future, while also generating 97 million new jobs, said Villarreal. Throughout this change, companies and governments have a moral responsibility to help employees transition. “AI came to help us and make us more productive. The first point is to convince employees about the advantages that automation will bring through concrete examples,” said Villarreal.

Working on relocating, reskilling and upskilling employees when they are substituted by robots or due to the companies’ needs is an ethical, moral matter, said Barcos. This work, however, should be seen as an investment rather than an expense, he added. Responsibility relies heavily on companies since they are the ones disrupting and accommodating the labor market. However, public policies and individuals’ contributions are also required, said Barcos.

Life-long learning has become the new standard, said Giacoman. Continuous education helps workers remain competitive in today’s global marketplace. Soft skills, such as innovation, adaptation and flexibility require continuous learning to develop. “We migrated from the 4-year university and 40 years working scheme to continuous learning. Unfortunately, Latin America is one of the regions with the biggest educational gaps,” said Giacoman.

Regulations must adapt to the changing contexts, said Barcos. “From the legal framework standpoint, the labor market will have to change to generate fluidity through regulations adapted to our current context. In Latin America we should improve data management, it is a fertile ground across all the continent,” said Barcos.

Antonio Gozain Antonio Gozain Journalist and Industry Analyst