In part five of The Big Questions series, imagining the future of the food and beverage industry, we take a look at the future of jobs in manufacturing

In part three of The Big Question series, we saw how factories might look and function in tomorrow’s world. But what role will humans play in the future of manufacturing? As the next industrial revolution plays out and radically transforms work, with evolving technologies like AI, robotics and advanced automation, what will it mean for us? Will the journey to digital transformation leave us without work?

Evolving with technology

Few can argue that manufacturing isn’t heading in the right direction. With increasing efficiency, intelligence and connectivity, industries have the potential to significantly reduce waste, cut costs, improve safety and do more in less time. But as automation continues to replace hands-on, manual labour, it’s understandable why many are concerned about job losses and skill shortages in the coming years.

In fact, according to Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the US alone will see a potential 2.4 million manufacturing jobs unfilled during 2015–2025. This is due in large part to the growing mismatch between available workers and the skills necessary for open jobs. The challenge for industries therefore is understanding how current manufacturing jobs, careers and workers can all evolve alongside technology.

Reimagining our role

So what skills will be essential in the future? And can there be enough job creation to balance the impact of automation? Most industry analysts agree ­that over time labour markets will always adapt to changes in demand. So far from making us obsolete, automation, AI and robots will drive new roles that rely on human-specific skills, from critical thinking and creativity to people management and problem solving.

To maximise the efficiency of these human skills, workers will also need to draw on highly advanced digital skills ­– ultimately creating a cooperative environment where man and machine work seamlessly together. But in order to realise this, industries, governments and educators will need to invest in the right skills development, encouraging the next generation that manufacturing has a bright and attractive future.

Watch the video below to hear innovation expert David Lee discuss why we should be creating more human minded jobs in the future.

Jobs of the future

In the coming decades, traditional blue collar jobs may disappear but a whole new set of professions will be called upon. Think robot teaming coordinators, blockchain architects, 3D printing specialists, AI-enhanced engineers, cybersecurity analysts, drone data coordinators, predictive supply network analysts and more. All of them highly computer literate, digital native, adept in programming and able to apply critical thinking to complex problems.

To prepare for this new era of work and stay competitive, manufacturers need to act now and ensure that workers have the skills and support they need to transition to new jobs. And as individuals, we need to be open to rethinking traditional notions of work to ensure we still have a meaningful place in manufacturing.

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