Workforce | Skills

Automation – embracing the change

Between 25-46 per cent of all workforce activity in Australia could be automatable by 2030, McKinsey & Co Chairman – Asia, Oliver Tonby told a CEDA audience in Perth.

Mr Tonby is optimistic, despite McKinsey’s research predicting 1.8-5 million people may need to switch occupational categories by 2030. 

“We believe it’s a positive story. We believe automation technology more broadly can add $170-600 billion to the GDP,” he said. 

“This can also translate into additional annual income for each Australian.  

“What we want is that win-win. We do not want to leave automated workers behind, nor do we want to be fighting over a shrinking pie.

“We do believe it is possible with proactive leadership.”

Mr Tonby said governments and business need to play a role to smooth the transition and avoid an increase in inequality.

“You get an increase in salary for folks that are managers, for folks that are professionals, for folks that are in technical occupations. You get a decrease in salary for people who are in trades, retails, manual types of jobs,” he said.

“It will be disruptive and if you’re in those shoes that is deeply uncomfortable, that comes with an insecurity. 

“So, this transition does need to be managed otherwise it’s not a very happy place.

“I’m a realistic optimist. I believe this is a huge opportunity for all of us and for the world at large. 

“Left unmanaged I think this is going to create a lot of tension and a lot of anxiety, therefore I ask of you, lets embrace this change and get on with it.” 

Rio Tinto Chief Executive – Iron Ore, Chris Salisbury said their research into the future of work found 30 per cent of 18-24 year-olds are very optimistic about the future of work, however, the older you get, the less optimistic you are. 

“The study reveals an understandable fear amongst the workforce about their jobs, and the jobs of their children and grandchildren,” he said. 

Mr Salisbury said the resources sector may be slower on the uptake of technology than others, but it is at the forefront of something new.

“We’re using data in ways beyond our imagination – predictive maintenance, improved materials handling, and optimising vessel queues are just a few examples,” he said. 

“This is not just technology for technologies sake, all of these advances are crucial to the success and survival of our industry. They improve the safety of our employees, maintain our competitiveness and create value for our shareholders and the broader community.”

Mr Salisbury said Rio Tinto have been involving its people in automation through its Mine of the Future program.

“What we’ve learnt with our experience and conversations with employees and the broader community is that transparency and forward planning is key,” he said.

“In the last year alone, we’ve held more than 2000 career conversations. 

“It’s about putting people in the centre of change, really listening to them, giving them key information, engaging with them about what’s going to happen and how it fits with their aspirations and more importantly how they can prepare. 

“Not everyone will stay in the job they have today, and many will find tasks within their role will change. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to reskilling and career pathways.”

Rio Tinto has partnered with the WA Government, South Metropolitan TAFE, and industry to deliver the first nationally recognised qualifications in automation. 

“I’m very pleased to announce that the third of these qualifications, a Certificate IV in Autonomous Control and Remote Operations has now been approved by the Training Accreditation Council of WA,” he said.

“This will provide students with the skills needed to work at facilities such as our operations centre near the Perth airport. 

“The courses also include a pilot program for high school students to study a certificate two in autonomous workplace operations. 

“It’s up to us all to effectively prepare for the future. 

“Innovation is not possible without the ingenuity of our people.”

Transition Hub Director, Louise Watts said people need time to develop their skills and confidence for the future of work. 

“Let’s call this the conscious decade,” she said.

“We are very conscious about our environment, we’ve got young people that are coming into the workforce that are very conscious about the impact that they’re going to have. 

“They want to do meaningful work, they want to work collaboratively, and they want to make those micro-transitions, perhaps within their own organisation to have those different experiences, rather than having to do the leap-frog across a lot of different organisations, even though we hear that’s what a lot of people will do.

“Giving people time to discover their self-confidence, their self-awareness, their ability to get on their feet and present, not to be in fear of being heard and to know that they have something that is potentially going to help someone else.

“People need time – give people a chance to step back, to go forward.”

Bunnings Managing Director, Michael Schneider said the future of work is about growth, disruption, innovation and change. 

“As leaders we have to take responsibility for the balance of creating and nurturing connection with the implementation of technologies that make our businesses and our lives more efficient, effective and personalised, and make the possibilities of connections easier, richer and more engaging,” he said. 

“Technology should make our jobs easier and create more opportunities for our team to be more creative, responsive and more productive and deliver better experiences for our customers and a more enjoyable place to work.

“For our business the first step has been leveraging human-centred design and changing our ways of working, including agile and rapid prototyping, always testing and learning to accelerate our successes and learn from our failures.”

Event presentations

Chris Salisbury, Rio Tinto MP3
Louise Watts, Transition Hub MP3
Michael Schneider, Bunnings MP3
Oliver Tonby, McKinsey & Company MP3
Moderated discussion MP3

Published 22 November 2019