Change is coming to the world of work and technology is driving the change

This month’s Employment Department seminar ‘Technology, work and skills” featured Mr. Iarla Flynn from Google, Director of Public Policy in Nordics/Benelux, who delivered a presentation on how technological changes are impacting the world of work and skill, and the role of tech companies as a training provider.

News | 29 November 2018
Geneva, 27 November – “While we do not have consensus on the number of jobs to be lost or a clear idea on the new jobs to be created, we do know that the current wave of technological change will have huge implications for skills as governments, companies as well as workers prepare for the new world of work,” said Ms. Sukti Dasgupta, Chief of the Employment and Labour Market Policies Branch as she opened the seminar on “Technology, work and skills. With a little help from my friends”. The event included a presentation by Mr. Iarla Flynn, Director of Public Policy in Nordics/Benelux, Google, followed by a brief question and answer session.

“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.

Digital skills and soft skills (communication, team-work, problem solving) are needed today to cope with the challenges facing the world of work over the coming years. Mr. Flynn highlighted the example of the Google training system, Grow with Google, an initiative that draws on the company’s 20-year history of building products, platforms, and services that help people and businesses grow. Through the programme, the company has trained seven million people in digital skills across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and has pledged to help another one million find a job or start a business by 2020.

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.