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Which workers are most affected by automation and what could help them find new jobs?

Self-checkout at the grocery store, electronic record keeping, even tax preparation. Increasingly, technology is automating tasks previously done by people. While automation technology has changed some jobs, it has eliminated others entirely.

Today’s WatchBlog article takes a look at our new report on the types of workers most likely to lose their jobs to automation and the skills they need to land in-demand jobs.

You can also listen to our podcast with GAO’s Dawn Locke, an expert in workforce training and education, to learn more.

Who is at risk of losing their job because of automation?

Workers with little education and performing routine tasks, such as cashiers or file clerks, are at greatest risk of having their jobs automated. However, automation is likely to have widespread effects. Researchers estimate that between 9% and 47% of jobs could be automated in the future.

To better understand the extent of the effects of automation, federal agencies are working to gather more data on how automation will affect the workforce. For example, the Department of Labor plans to collect information from industries such as retail, healthcare, transportation and warehousing to learn more about how automation is affecting jobs.

What skills are required for the jobs sought?

Workers affected by automation may need new skills to adapt to changing job demands or to obtain a new job.

Data from the Department of Labor indicates that the skills needed for in-demand jobs (i.e. jobs expected to grow the fastest over the next 10 years) will include a mix of:

  • soft skills – such as interpersonal skills to successfully interact with people,
  • address skills that help a person acquire knowledge quickly, such as active learning and critical thinking, and
  • specific technical expertise skills, such as equipment maintenance.

Department of Labor data also shows that in-demand jobs with more “important” skills tend to require more education. Important skills include active listening, social insight and critical thinking.

Skills deemed important in the 20 most in-demand occupations, by level of education

What challenges do workers face in acquiring these skills?

While research indicates that some in-demand jobs with skills such as judgment and management might be more resistant to automation, workers trying to develop their skills face challenges.

For example, labor stakeholders we interviewed for our new report told us that training programs are sometimes aimed at helping people find jobs quickly, which could lead to short-term employment. or poorly paid. Others told us that workers struggle to access programs, such as finding daycare or taking a training program without being able to pay their bills.

How can organizations help workers overcome these challenges?

The workforce stakeholders we interviewed had a number of suggestions for addressing these challenges. For example, some stakeholders said training programs should focus on in-demand skills needed for high-growth jobs that are less likely to be automated.

The research also noted that training should build on workers’ existing skills to help them acquire skills for high-quality jobs. Other stakeholders stated that training programs should help workers obtain industry-recognized credentials. Stakeholders also suggested that providing wraparound services, such as childcare, and offering financial support can help workers access training, although they acknowledged the cost of such support. .

Learn more about our work on workforce automation and development by checking out our new report and podcast, and our Key Issues on Jobs in a Changing Economy page.


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