Are electronics jobs safe from automation?

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My sweet tin toy robot on the rocksResearch conducted by Oxford University and Deloitte suggests that about 35% of the current jobs here in the UK have a high risk of being computerised in the next 20 years.

At a time when people are nervous about their future employment we’re asking what impact automation is going to have on the electronics sector.

An automated future

We’re used to seeing farfetched Artificial Intelligence (AI) in films, but these sci-fi fantasies are looking more plausible every day.

Automation and systemisation are real and growing threats to jobs as humans are being replaced by easier-to-manage, cheaper-to-run robots.

As computers and machines get more sophisticated it’s difficult to think of an industry that won’t feel the impact of automation. But which jobs will go first?

Researchers at Oxford University tried to answer this question by breaking work down into nine key skills: social perceptiveness, negotiation, persuasion, assisting and caring for others, fine arts, finger dexterity, manual dexterity and the need to work in a cramped work space.

Susceptibility to automation is then calculated by scoring each job according to these factors.

Those jobs which are most at risk of automation are those which require you to require you to squeeze into small spaces or assemble/ manipulate objects.

The jobs which are generally safer require you to think on your feet or come up with creative solutions (like engineers and artists) and those which take a high degree of social negotiation/compassion (like managerial/caring roles).

Jobs which require people to carry out repetitive tasks – like filing reports and inputting spreadsheets will be quick to go. And as robotics and AI improve we expect technical manual jobs like taxi driving and factory work will become automated too.

Don’t think though that all skilled/professional jobs will be protected. Doctors and cocktail waiters found themselves a little higher on the list than they were expecting. And the BBC published an article showing how certain types of journalism were already becoming automated.

So what about the electronics industry? The published data included numerous jobs, but they didn’t line up completely with all the roles in the electronics sector. We’ve published the likelihoods for a few different jobs in the hope of making it clearer.

Skilled metal, electrical and electronic trade supervisors

Skilled metal, electrical and electronic trade supervisors only have a very slim chance (2%) of being replaced being replaced by automated machines. This is good news but it is understandable given what the job involves.

Although many jobs lower down the electronics supply chain might be at risk – the supervisor role should remain relatively safe. The machines and systems which come in to replace humans will still require an element of control and oversight – at least in the short term.

Assembler of electronic products

At the other end of the scale assemblers working with electronics and electronics products have a very high chance of being replaced by robots (92.4%).

These jobs require less skill and as machines get more dexterous and precise they will be capable of assembling the smallest parts more accurately than humans.

Electronics engineer

Electronics engineers, who design and develop the systems used by machines and systems, only have a 12.5% chance of being replaced in the next 20 years.

As time goes by it is likely that these electronics engineers and designers will have more work because they will be the ones putting the systems in place.