There is no reason why Northern Ireland could not be a significant economic global player but the question we must ask is not how many jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence and robotics, it is how can we get ahead of the rest of the world by changing work to get the best out of our people and automation?
That was the message from two of the world’s leading experts in automation to an audience of 250 business leaders, policy makers and educationalists at the Catalyst Inc Future of Work Solutions Summit, in association with Bank of Ireland UK, in Belfast today. Click here to view more photographs from the event
The Solutions Summit was organised by Catalyst Inc as a follow up to their Knowledge Economy Report last month which contained specific research on the impact of automation on half a million jobs in Northern Ireland.
Steve Orr, Director of Connect at Catalyst Inc said it was not enough to simply sound the alarm bells.
“We had to provide a substantial opportunity for our business community and our educationalists to have a real say not just in identifying the threats, but in making very real suggestions as to how we tackle this global issue.”
Ravin Jesuthasan, a contributor to the World Economic Forum and MD & Global Practice Leader at Willis Towers Watson in Chicago was the keynote speaker and his message to Northern Ireland was, “It’s time to move beyond alarmist rhetoric about workplace automation and consider how human-machine collaboration can deliver a higher level of productivity.”
That sentiment was echoed by NI based companies Coca Cola Hellenic, Willowbrook Foods Ltd, AuditComply and Liberty IT, who gave their experiences of implementing automation as an essential move to maintain their competitiveness.
Jonathan Downing from Northern Ireland, another keynote speaker and researcher at Oxford Martin School, Oxford University, is part of a world leading team that has produced the most globally recognised information on the impact of automation on jobs by 2030.
"Whatever job you do if you invest in developing the right skills you can leave yourself in a better place to benefit from the opportunities of the future," he said.
As the event Sponsor, Ian Sheppard, Bank of Ireland UK MD in Northern Ireland said: “Investing to grow the Knowledge Economy is fundamental to the sustainable success of Northern Ireland. We have a heritage of invention and innovation but collectively we need to think differently. New thinking combined with robust planning and key policy changes, will ensure businesses and communities are well equipped to learn, compete and thrive.”
The Future of Work Solutions Summit has also driven a significant business coalition including CBI, IOD, Manufacturing NI, FSB, CIPD and Women in Business, who have lobbied their members on this issue.
“Today was just the start of business leaders sharing what they know about how we can thrive in the age of automation. Going forward, we will work to build a coalition of business, acadamia, elected and civic leaders to work together to ensure that Northern Ireland business and citizens are best positioned for a challenging economic future,” promised Steve Orr.