A study carried out by industry organisation Make UK found that around a third of UK manufacturers, at 31%, expect some low-skilled jobs to disappear in the course of the next five years owing to the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital technologies.
On the brighter side, more than half of companies, 54% of those surveyed, expect to up-skill their lower skilled workers to undertake jobs created by the technological innovation.
Out of the surveyed manufacturers, 22% of them believe that some mid-skilled roles could go due to the emerging technologies. For higher-skilled roles, 12% of the surveyed manufacturers expect the jobs to be replaced with AI and other evolving technologies.
The Make UK study found that more than two thirds of manufacturers intend to allocate a part of their training budget in the coming 12 months to acquire technical engineering skills.
A part of the budget is expected to be used for providing apprenticeships, which is currently offered by nearly eight in ten employers. The remaining part of it will be set aside for existing employees who will have to up-skill continuously if manufacturers have to make the most of Industry 4.0 and the surge in income driven by it.
However, one fourth of firms that took part in the Make UK survey said that they will seek external support to help lower-skilled employees who are likely to lose jobs to technology, in getting employed elsewhere.
Make UK education and skills policy head Verity Davidge expects the government’s new National Retraining Scheme to address the issue and calls for some adjustment to the current trial specifications to make it more effective for the impacted workers.
Davidge said: “Currently the scheme is being aimed at those employees whose jobs are at risk of being displaced as a result of AI and digitisation within their companies. But it fails to look at the fact that most companies want to retain their workers by up-skilling them to fill new jobs digital technologies will create or place these employees in other parts of the business. This is the missing link in funding support and provision which the Government’s Scheme could help to fix.
“The cost of retraining and up-skilling a manufacturer can be high, and the National Retraining Scheme, when it is properly rolled out across the country, needs to be more widely available including those employers who wish to up-skill their current workers as well as for those employees who do find themselves in a position where they are looking for alternative employment.”