“One of the things I’d like to talk about today is technology and the future of work,” said Mr. Flynn. “I’d like to use some musical inspiration going through this, and hence the title of the seminar – “Technology and the Future of Work - With a little help from my friends". The first musical theme that I’d like to start with ‘Change is gonna come’ by Sam Cooke. And I’m starting with this because a change is coming to the world of work and technology is one of the biggest factors driving that.”
During his presentation, Mr. Flynn offered several examples of technology, tools and platforms from Google and how these have been used across different sectors such as the healthcare sector, manufacturing and transport sectors: telescopes for use in labs that offer doctors a second opinion, machine learning powered systems, Google glasses to work quicker and more effectively, and driverless cars.
Citing a McKinsey report on the impact of automation across 9 digital frontrunners in Europe, Mr. Flynn said some 4.5 million jobs will be replaced and created by automation by 2030, and that 44 per cent of the tasks had the potential to be automated. The McKinsey study also found that automation of activities and new technologies can enable businesses to improve performance, by reducing errors and improving quality and speed, and in some cases achieving outcomes that go beyond human capabilities. Moreover, the research demonstrated a massive return on investment, of between 13 and 25 per cent to individuals and businesses that invest in IT training.
In preparing for the realities of change, Mr.Flynn cited the importance of partnerships. Google is partnering with trade unions, governments and industries. Collaboration with Nesta, an English think tank, was also cited as a good example of a new initiative for working with governments from the Nordic countries and Benelux regions to share experiences on skills and retraining to try to fill the gap in information and developing ideas for change.
The NESTA report “Digital frontrunners: Designing inclusive skills policy for the digital age” highlights four key challenges they have found from working with governments and their own experience in thinking about skills and the future of work and how that might change: anticipate skills demand; serve diverse needs of workers; promote motivation to learn; and build resilient labour markets by helping workers navigate change.
The changes of the future of work will also challenge current educational and workforce training models. Automation requires the workforce to be reskilled to generate inclusive growth: workers and employers must adopt continuous learning as a core element to continually upskill and reskill to take advantage of emerging jobs throughout their careers, Mr. Flynn concluded.