a 'red alert' for workers: businesses embrace automation during the covid-19 pandemic
Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

Now is a good time for U.S. workers. They are operating from a position of strength as an ongoing labor shortage creates greater demand and incentivizes higher wages for their services.

But those gains are temporary, warns Nada Sanders, distinguished professor of supply chain management at Northeastern.

The unmet demand and rising costs for skilled labor are convincing employers to automate their businesses at an accelerated rate—which will result in fewer job opportunities for many of the workers who appear to be doing so well today.

“There is critical demand for workers across every sector—from hospitality to restaurants to nursing to truck drivers, you name it,” says Sanders. “But that leverage is going to rapidly shrink and go away.

“This is a red alert for workers who need to understand that many of their jobs are going to be pushed out by technology,” Sanders says. “And once they go, they’re not coming back.”

The momentary labor shortage is driven in part by “The Great Resignation” that has been spurred by the millions of American workers who have quit jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Supply-chain shortages and other business interruptions related to the pandemic are also contributing to the dramatic shift toward automation by U.S. companies, says Sanders.

“In autumn 2019, before COVID hit, I was talking to companies about their hesitation to go digital because of the amount of money it would cost,” Sanders says. “But we are in a different era now. We’re two years into this pandemic, and these companies are smart. They’re saying they’re not going to be caught with their pants down again. Of the companies I’ve talked to, they’re all investing a significant increase—5% to 10% of revenues—in automation.”

A World Economic Forum survey of close to 300 companies around the world last year found that 43% envisioned cutting back on workers in favor of new technology.

“The prices used to be astronomical, but the technology is now more commonplace and it’s actually affordable for small businesses,” Sanders says of the drive to automation. “Businesses are aware that if they make this investment, they’re not having to pay for benefits, Social Security, healthcare, and [in terms of automated systems] they’re not worrying about COVID and the variants that are coming.”

The development shows some obvious signs, says Tucker Marion, a Northeastern associate professor of technological entrepreneurship, who notes how national retailers, including CVS, and restaurants such as McDonald’s, have been replacing cashiers with self-service kiosks. That’s just the beginning.

“You have those jobs that can be replaced by automation, which is reliable and doesn’t require a lot of technicians to maintain it,” Marion says. “You’ll see that in grocery stores, warehouses, restaurants. Workers need to think about what skills they’re going to develop for the workplace.”

Employers want workers who can provide specific skills that weren’t in demand a few years ago. That’s why Amazon is offering free tuition to employees, says Sanders, in addition to educational programs for employees on data center maintenance and technology, IT, and user experience and research design.

It’s also why the Roux Institute at Northeastern was launched in 2019: To train high-tech workers capable of sparking a digital renaissance in Maine, a state that was struggling to train workers who could grow and maintain cutting-edge industries.

“When job offers are made, it is reasonable to ask, “Is it possible to get reskilling, training, tuition, or something along those lines as part of the compensation package?'” says Sanders. “If I were a worker, in my job negotiation, I would want a chance to reskill and upskill so that I am ready for this new age that is absolutely coming, and it’s coming very fast.”

Sanders notes that a variety of innovations are already changing the U.S. workplace, including:

Spot, an agile four-legged robot sold by Boston Dynamics, which can perform dangerous surveying tasks at construction sites.Dark stores, or micro-fulfillment centers, that provide deliveries to nearby customers. Soon, envisions Sanders, these stores will be operated by robots.Amazon Go stores, in which cameras and intelligent software track customer purchases and charge them as they leave the premises—which makes the cashier kiosk redundant.

Sanders and Marion recall the message of “Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” in which Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun proposed ways to educate future generations to thrive in the automated economy. People should invest in areas of perception and creativity—strengths that machines can’t yet match, notes Marion.

What are the jobs of the future? “It is a challenging question,” Marion says. “For the foreseeable future, there will be a need for highly technical backgrounds and skills—materials science, computer science, engineering, analytics, physics, medicine, biomedical—where we are combining different fields together. Interdisciplinary technical skills will be extremely valuable because technology is going to change, and being able to have combinations of skills in different technical fields is very important.”

The embrace of automated systems by businesses is a movement that transcends the current supply chain shortages, says Sanders.

“I really see this as a community service—we’ve got to get the word out to workers,” says Sanders. “What you don’t want is to be caught in a situation where, in a year or two, this job is no longer there, and you no longer have the leverage, and you do not have the skill-set to compete in the new job market.” Provided by Northeastern University Citation: A ‘red alert’ for workers: Businesses embrace automation during the COVID-19 pandemic (2021, December 8) retrieved 8 December 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-12-red-workers-businesses-embrace-automation.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.


Agritech firm DeHaat acquires farm input startup Helicrofter

ETtech DeHaat CEO Shashank Kumar. Picture credit: DeHaat website New Delhi: Agritech firm DeHaat on Monday said it has acquired agri-input marketplace startup Helicrofter to expand its presence in Maharashtra and other parts of West India. The company did not disclose the deal value.Started in 2012 and based in Gurugram ...

View more: Agritech firm DeHaat acquires farm input startup Helicrofter

IndiaFilings closes $4.3 million in secondary share sale to BeeNext, Udtara Ventures

ETtech Lionel Charles, CEO and founder, IndiaFilings Bengaluru: Compliance and regulatory service provider IndiaFilings.com, operated by Verve Financial Services on Monday said that it has executed a $4.3 million secondary sale bringing on board BeeNext, Udtara and angels. The bootstrapped company saw its promoters and early angels partially sell shares ...

View more: IndiaFilings closes $4.3 million in secondary share sale to BeeNext, Udtara Ventures

US and China, in separate corners, wrestle with cryptomania’s excesses

The craze has inspired Selfiecoins, Potcoins and UFOCoins, fuelled a failed bid to buy a rare copy of the US Constitution, inspired legions of confusing jargon and prompted dozens of nations to consider creating their own official version. To say the world of cryptocurrency, blockchain and central bank digital ...

View more: US and China, in separate corners, wrestle with cryptomania’s excesses

OnePlus 9RT Goes on Sale in India With Snapdragon 888 SoC, 50-Megapixel Triple Cameras for the First Time

Photo Credit: OnePlus OnePlus 9RT is available in Hacker Black (pictured) and Nano Silver colour options OnePlus 9RT was launched in India on January 14 and the smartphone is set to go on sale in the country today, January 17, during the Amazon Great Republic Day Sale. The handset ...

View more: OnePlus 9RT Goes on Sale in India With Snapdragon 888 SoC, 50-Megapixel Triple Cameras for the First Time

Apple to Require Employee Proof of COVID-19 Booster: Report

Unvaccinated employees will need negative COVID-19 tests to enter Apple workplaces Apple will require retail and corporate employees to provide proof of a COVID-19 booster shot, The Verge reported on Saturday, citing an internal email. Starting January 24, unvaccinated employees or those who haven’t submitted proof of vaccination will ...

View more: Apple to Require Employee Proof of COVID-19 Booster: Report

Crypto Price Chart Shows Gains and Losses as Altcoins Swell Up While Bitcoin, Ether See Dips

Photo Credit: Unsplash/ Executium Overall crypto market seems balanced with some tokens dipping and the others rising in values Bitcoin opened with losses on Monday, January 17, stepping into the third week of 2022. With a dip of 0.57 percent, each token of Bitcoin is trading at $46,214 (roughly ...

View more: Crypto Price Chart Shows Gains and Losses as Altcoins Swell Up While Bitcoin, Ether See Dips

Google Doodle Encourages People to Get COVID-19 Vaccine, Wear Face Masks Amid Surge of Cases

Photo Credit: Google Google introduced the same animated doodle in May last year Google on Monday featured an animated doodle on its website to once again encourage people to get vaccinated and wear face masks — in the midst of the surge in COVID-19 cases. The Google doodle appears ...

View more: Google Doodle Encourages People to Get COVID-19 Vaccine, Wear Face Masks Amid Surge of Cases

Serial Break-Ups and Years Lived Alone Strongly Linked to Inflammation in Men

Findings most likely indicate heightened risk of ill health and death, suggest researchers. Living alone for several years and/or experiencing serial relationship break-ups are strongly linked to raised levels of inflammatory markers in the blood–but only in men–finds a large population study published online in the Journal of Epidemiology ...

View more: Serial Break-Ups and Years Lived Alone Strongly Linked to Inflammation in Men

S. Korea, Canada vow to boost trade, supply chain ties during ministerial talks

Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 goes on sale today in India: Check price, specifications

Tecno Pop 5 Pro With 6000mAh Battery To Launch In India Soon

Future FedEx Cargo Planes Could Come with Anti-Missile Laser Systems

Genesis and Hyundai Could Get Apple CarKey Support by Summer

Microsoft Warns Ukraine Cyberattack May Be 'Destructive'

Come Sail Away With Me

OnePlus 9RT Sale In India Starts Today, Avail Of Unmissable Offers

AirAsia aims to become Asia's largest food delivery, ride hailing company - report

Tiny New Sensor – That Could Fit in a Smartphone – Makes the Invisible Visible

Top 5 Blockchains for 2022: Ethereum, Avalanche, Polygon, More

Ukraine Says Russia Behind Cyberattack in 'Hybrid War' Move