Is a robot coming for your job?



Many once-common jobs from the past have been replaced by technology. When was the last time you saw a lamp-lighter, a telephone exchange operator, a 'knocker-upper', for example - or even a petrol station attendant?

But the march of the robots may hardly have started, according to the experts. Oxford University researchers have estimated that as many as 47% of jobs could be automated by 2033.

And just a few months ago, Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane warned that as many as 15 million jobs were threatened with replacement by smart machines - again, almost half the UK's total.

These jobs aren't necessarily the ones you'd expect, with insurance underwriters, paralegals, accountants and auditors all rated as having at least a 90% chance of eventually being replaced by computers.

A couple of weeks ago, Adzuna analysed over 1.2 million job vacancies listed on its site and correlated them with the Oxford University data to find out how many current vacancies were for jobs that are likely to be taken over by robots by 2035.

And, it found, there were over 100,000 job adverts for roles across the UK with a high risk of becoming automated - that's one in eleven vacancies.

These included roles with a high number of vacancies across the country such as HGV drivers, couriers, receptionists and accountants, as well as much less common jobs like billboard installers, tree trimmers and tractor operators.

Drivers and couriers, for example, could be replaced by self-driving cars, and accountants by computer software. Robot receptionists already exist and are in use in hotels and department stores in Japan. They're also being tested as carers for small children and the elderly.

"We've heard that more than a third of current British jobs may be lost to automation, but our new analysis of the job market suggests that a high proportion of advertised vacancies are still for roles that are at high risk of being performed by robots in the not-too-distant future," says Adzuna co-founder Doug Monro.

Over the country as a whole, found Adzuna, around one in nine current job vacancies is for a position that could be vulnerable to replacement by a robot. But there are big variations in the proportion of at-risk vacancies across the UK.

Adzuna reckons Exeter has the highest rate of jobs likely to be automated, while nearby Plymouth wasn't far behind. Other areas where robots look set to take over from people in the workplace include Crawley, Norwich and Aberdeen.

At the other end of the scale, London, Reading and Edinburgh had the lowest proportion of high-risk vacancies, with only around one in twenty adverts being for a job that a robot was likely to take over.

Londoners, though, shouldn't feel too complacent. While the proportion of robot-friendly jobs in London was low, the high number of vacancies across the city meant that there were still 13,000 at-risk jobs.

"The risk of a robot invasion on the Devon coast might sound fanciful, but there's a serious message for younger workers, whether they're looking for their first job, or are comfortably in a career," says Monro.

"If you want to remain relevant in the workplace, you need to develop skills that cannot be easily automated."

In general, this means focusing on the skills that robots aren't likely to master any time soon: negotiation, persuasiveness and empathy. Jobs that require creative thinking and value-judgements that go beyond logical reasoning should also be more safe from automation, says Adzuna.

"This doesn't mean you should necessarily avoid jobs that can be automated like the plague – but if you're not planning on retiring within the next 20 years you should be aware of the need to develop skills and take every opportunity to gain experience in areas that will set you apart from the upcoming robot uprising," comments Adzuna's Stephen Pritchard.

Proportion of jobs at high risk of automation - the riskiest towns and cities

1. Exeter 8.9%
2. Crawley 8.4%
3. Norwich 7.9%
4. Plymouth 7.7%
5. Warrington 7.7%
6. Southampton 7.7%
7. Aberdeen 7.6%
8. Salford 7.6%
9. Rochdale 7.5%
10. Sunderland 7.5%

Proportion of jobs at high risk of automation - the safest towns and cities
1. London 4.8%
2. Reading 5.0%
3. Edinburgh 5.1%
4. Swansea 5.3%
5. Chester 5.4%
6. Leeds 5.4%
7. Worcester 5.5%
8. Glasgow 5.5%
9. Oxford 5.6%
10. Stoke on Trent 5.6%

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Is a robot coming for your job?

Flying high literally as well as metaphorically, pilots top the salary scale this year. There are various routes into the job, from university courses to airlines' own training schemes; private training will set you back as much as £50,000 to £60,000.

"I most enjoy the variety of the job, working as a team, to a schedule, with the responsibility of safely transporting hundreds of people to their destination. I would advise aspiring pilots to thoroughly research training routes, understand the serious financial outlay required with no guarantee of a job after training and to consider other routes such as flight instruction."

Not all CEOs are making millions - but they're doing pretty nicely on average. There's no clear route into the job; an MBA can help, but many bosses have worked their way up from the bottom and many simply started their own firm.

"There is an old saying, it's very lonely at the top, which is usually the case for a CEO. You're the leader and you're responsible for everything, meaning you take the credit for the successes and feel the most pain for the companies' failures."

Most air traffic controllers train through National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which has programmes for college leavers who have studied at BTEC ND/HNC/HND level, university students on a sandwich year and graduates. NATS says the most important attribute for acceptance on a course is natural aptitude.

"Much of the time, the job is routine and capable of being done by many people. What you are paid for, however, is your ability to make the right choices and decisions under extreme pressure."

The high pay reflects both the heavy workload and the length of training required - a five-year degree course in medicine, a two-year foundation programme of general training and then another three years specialist training.

"You will get paid well and (despite recent changes!) you will get a very good pension. You will, however, work hard for your money with less recognition than previous years."

This is a job where most people work their way up, although qualifications like the Chartered Institute of Marketing's Professional Diploma in Marketing or the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing's Diploma in Direct and Interactive Marketing can help. You'll probably need three or four years' experience before you can move into management.

"It's great working in such a varied job - there's something new every day. I enjoy the travel, too. But it's fast-paced, very hard work, and there's a lot of technical data analysis work involved."

It's not surprising that IT and telecoms directors earn good money. The job requires both business and technical skills, and the stakes are high: smoothly-running IT systems are crucial for most businesses and the cost of getting things wrong is high.

"It's a high-pressure job, and the hours can be unbelievably long, but it's extremely rewarding when a project goes well. The biggest problems are staying on top of changes in technology and being clear about what's actually achievable within a budget."

Financial managers and directors need to be qualified accountants and, particularly in larger organisations, have strong general business skills. And the job carries huge levels of responsibility, from keeping the company in good health financially to making sure it complies with the law.

"What I enjoy about the job is the way it's central to the business, the way I'm involved in creating long-term business plans. Compliance [with regulations] can be a bit of a pain; it takes a lot of hard work."

Until recently, the only way to become a senior officer was to work your way up through the ranks. Each police force sets its own recruitment process and selection policy, though there's a basic national framework for evaluating competency. This year, though, the College of Policing has started appointing superintendents from outside the force - so you might be in with a chance.

"I love the opportunity to take on a vast array of roles which would never be possible in a civilian organisation and to progress through a clearly defined promotion structure, should I prove to be good enough. The training I have received has been quite brilliant, enhancing my life skills as well as my ability to do my job well."

If your vision of a bank manager is of a middle-aged man in a panelled office dictating stern letters to his secretary, think again. It's now about managing a team and, especially, attracting new customers and monitoring branch performance. There are two ways to get to be one: either through a bank's graduate scheme, or by starting off in a customer service role and working your way up.

"For me, what's great about working in a branch is that anyone could be a branch manager, you don't have to have a certain skill set. Having a background in customer service, whether it's in a bank or with another retailer, certainly helps. Some other skills that would help are organisation, patience, tolerance and empathy. After 27 years I can genuinely say that that not only do I love coming to work every day, I have also made lifelong friends here. For me, it's not just a nine-to-five job."

Once you're qualified as a teacher, it's a question of working your way up by gaining extra responsibilities - by becoming a head of department, a head of year, or a specialist in something like special educational needs. At head teacher level, the job is far less about teaching itself, and far more about managing staff and budgets and creating a productive, disciplined learning environment.

"It's a common complaint that teaching is all about performance targets these days, and there is some truth in that. It's a question of balance, though. The most rewarding part of the job is knowing that you're bringing the best out of every single child by creating an environment where they feel safe and motivated to learn."

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