Fri 26th Jan 2018
January 2018: 2017 Connect Knowledge Economy Report
The ‘2017 Connect Knowledge Economy Report’ was published last week and offered a glimpse into a future which simultaneously threw down a challenge while opening up the fascinating possibility of an economy built on and driven by automation and technology.
Indeed the stark headline arising from the report, published by Connect – part of Catalyst NI – was that up to 500,000 jobs in Northern Ireland could be rendered redundant over the next 10 years, such is the advance of Artificial Intelligence and Information Communication Technology. This is no idle warning and the report is endorsed by some of the leading names from academia and the business world.
Businesses in this region have never been slow to adapt and to embrace new theories and emerging new practices. That is why this report will not sound alarm bells in boardrooms but rather will present possibilities and new opportunities in the future. For every job lost to the progression of technology, a new sector opens up; it is a constantly evolving economy.
Embracing new technology as a driver of economic growth is not solely the responsibility of the private sector nor should it be. Planning for and identifying the skills which will be needed in future growth sectors is the job for government, colleges, universities and even our schools. If we want today’s primary school pupils to secure sustainable employment in 20 years’ time, they need to embrace emerging skills and learn how to maximise technology and its advantages.
Business advisers Deloitte, locally, provide a great example of how Northern Ireland based businesses can often be ahead of the curve. They have launched a Robotics Automation Academy which will initially offer 20 new recruits training in innovative and cutting-edge areas of robotic process automation and data visualisation. The Academy is backed by the Department for the Economy and that partnership model is the one which will work in the long term.
We have a proud tradition in Northern Ireland of leading in economic development, be that through shipbuilding a century ago, right through to life sciences and pharmaceutical research firms today. Yes, automation offers a challenge, but nowhere is more suited to turning this challenge into an opportunity than the businesses we work with every day.
The Connect Knowledge Economy Report is a timely reminder; a failure to plan and develop our workforce is the equivalent of standing still, or worse. Let’s acknowledge the challenge and embrace the opportunity.