Should we fear the dark side of automation?

Industry and Higher Education must work together to enlighten each other about the future World of Work

“Have you ever heard of bearer bonds?” asked my taxi driver.

I had to admit that I hadn’t.

He went on to explain that bearer bonds were one of the ways to transfer money from organisation to organisation before the days of the internet. He worked for a large Swiss bank and travelled around the world carrying bearer bonds in his briefcase.

He continued: “And then when my job was replaced by electronic banking, my employer helped me re-train to become a pensions analyst.”

Throughout history, whether it be the invention of the wheel, Gutenberg’s printing press or the development of the internet, automation has always made a process more efficient and thus, in some circumstances, replaced jobs. Rather than fearing the dark side of automation, industry and Higher Education should work together to enlighten each other and make the most of the huge opportunities which will become available.

There’s currently a real fear in industry about what automation will lead to because the pace of change is so fast.

This is mainly because those at the executive level don’t necessarily have the first-hand experience to draw on to manage the changes we are witnessing, which is traditionally how management typically works.

This lack of experience will only deteriorate and fear will heighten as automation is set to replace a huge number of roles in the next few years. If newly qualified accountants are replaced by robots, where will the next generation of audit managers come from? Managers and executives will need to be honest with themselves and seek further education throughout their own careers.

Universities and industry have an opportunity to work together to ensure not only the current younger generation of students are being educated to succeed in a changing world, but also to help re-train a group of workers to succeed in new roles, as well as those in middle management and executive roles.

The higher education industry must become a lot more agile to respond to this new demand from industry in order to remain relevant. Certainly for business schools, the days of updating course content on an annual basis could be numbered. A way forward will be for universities to build effective, long-lasting relationships with those in industry to understand first-hand the challenges they are facing today. This will help to inform, develop and validate university course content for the needs of industry tomorrow.

Discover how industry and higher education can work together to enlighten each other about the future from last year’s World of Work conference, hosted by Henley Careers.

The next World at Work conference will be held on 13 September 2018 – information on how to book your place will be announced shortly.

This article was written by Matthew Searle, Head of Relationship Management in the careers and professional development team at Henley Business School. Find him on Twitter at @mattjksearle


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