Are Robots Taking Our Jobs?

While It Isn’t Clear If Jobs Will Evaporate, It Is Clear That Higher-Order Skills Will Be Required

I remember watching 2001: A Space Odyssey and having a healthy fear of machines taking over. More recently – and more realistically – there has been a growing fear that robots and automation will decimate millions of jobs across the country. The graph below, adapted from a 2013 study by Carl Benedikt Fray and Michael A. Osborne, shows us in real numbers just how dramatic those shifts could be in the next 10-20 years.



Others, such as James Surowiecki in Wired Magazine, argue that the data is less clear about automation leading to a loss of millions of jobs.

What everyone does agree on, though, is that computerization and automation will lead a growing number of jobs to be replaced with different types of jobs requiring different skills. More importantly, the jobs of yesterday could be filled by high school graduates with minimal advanced skills while the jobs of tomorrow will require that prospective employees have significantly more advanced skills to find success in the job market. As the graph above shows, automation and other developments will reduce the number of jobs that just require a high school degree–cashiers, waiters, drivers–while jobs that require a college degree and advanced skills will be mostly intact, if not more abundant.

80% of future U.S. jobs are estimated to be middle- or high-skilled roles requiring post-secondary training.

The graph below shows the trend lines. Jobs that require non-routine analytic skills (forming and testing a hypothesis, for instance) or non-routine interpersonal skills (working on teams, for instance) have risen in importance from 1960 to 2009, and all indications point to those skills being even more important today. Jobs that require routine skills or manual skills are being automated, and thus are less demanded by the workplace of today.

What does this mean for Fresno’s schools? It means our children don’t just need to be proficient in English, Writing and Math, but in a whole new set of skills too.

Our schools today are not doing well enough in preparing every child in English and in Math. Even if they were, though, we would still have much work to do. We at GO Fresno remain hopeful and steadfast in our belief that Fresno can take on this challenge and prepare our students for where the world is going, however it will require revamping traditional schools and classrooms in order to build better basic skills and new skills.

There are strong examples of schools moving to build stronger base skills and build new skills across the country and even here in our own city. The question for all of us to consider is, “how do we ensure that all of our students are not just prepared for the jobs available today, but the jobs of tomorrow?”

As we delve further into Choosing Our Future 2.0 with community members, parents, educators and students, we will continue to identify areas where we can find better solutions to better support students, parents and educators in preparing all of our children for success.

If you want to join in our Choosing Our Future 2.0 community conversation gatherings this fall, please be sure to sign up for our email list at the bottom of this page so we can keep you informed!

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