Employment: Overcoming Automation Anxiety

By Warren Heggarty

automation-3154529_960_720 copyABOVE: In today’s employment environment, ‘a lot has devolved back on to individuals to make their own way, and that’s a stressful and demanding thing.’ Especially when robots are after your job, but there is something you can do. PICTURE FROM PIXABAY

By Warren Heggarty

Some people in the industry claim that, because of automation, in the next 15 years about half of the jobs that currently exist could disappear. ‘Catastrophising’ is easy to do, but is there any real cause for alarm? 

According to a panel of experts at a recent business and training event, if we start looking at technology as an enabler rather than a threat, we might see a future that is not so worrying after all! 

The event was part of the Enterprise Series, sponsored by The Australian newspaper in partnership with TAFE NSW. 

The general consensus was that ‘adaptability’ is the quality for thriving in a quickly changing future employment market. Andrew Charlton of AlphaBeta suggested people get skills that ‘complement’ automation, that is, skills that machines can’t carry out: the creative, cognitive and interpersonal skills. (Duncan, 2018)

…we should take practical steps right now to put ourselves in a better position to face the increased need for adaptability.

Employers were very keen on characteristics like punctuality, persistence, creativity, resilience, empathy, teamwork and collaboration. 

Professor Lyn Craig from the University of Melbourne said concerns about automation were ‘overblown.’ However the circumstances for individuals will change. At the moment, people tend to be employed by ‘continuous contract’ but in future there could be more emphasis on ‘employment by task.’ 

That means that instead of having one employer who gets them to do many tasks, an employee might have many employers who get them to do individual projects. (Hewett, 2018)

Prof Craig told The Australian ‘A lot has devolved back on to individuals to make their own way and that’s a stressful and demanding thing that some people feel more capable of than others.’

Panorama has previously reported that employers are not keen on spending money on training their own workers. This pushes the cost onto either individuals or the taxpayer. Nicholas Davis wrote in The Australian ‘the employees most at risk of disruption are the least likely to be supported by the businesses they work for.’ (Davis, 2018)

Mr Charlton said that in future a lot ‘will depend on the … workers’ own initiative to find the training courses, to pay for the training courses and … accrue debt to be retrained and then find a job.’

Reflecting the idea of ‘employment by task’ or ‘employment by project’ is ‘piece by piece learning’ or ‘spot learning’. If an employer wants a lamb chop, they are not going to buy a whole sheep. So if an employee needs a skill covered in one unit of a TAFE certificate, why not do just that one unit instead of the whole certificate?

Mr Davis, who is ‘head of society and innovation at the World Economic Forum’ suggests that people should be ‘running towards disruption rather than trying to avoid it.’ He insists that we should take practical steps right now to put ourselves in a better position to face the increased need for adaptability. So ‘which online course are you taking later today’ he asks the readers of his article. (Davis, 2018)

If you’re worried there won’t be any jobs for you, take heart. Nicholas Davis gives the example that Australia will need 18,000 more cyber security experts by 2026. Currently about 500 suitable professionals are being graduated each year. That’s a shortfall of 14,000. The question is, what is a ‘cyber security expert’ and what do you need to do to qualify as one. We’ll leave that with you for now. 


Davis, N. (2018, December 5). World of change in a modernising workforce. The Australian.

Duncan, S. (2018, December 5). Adaptability essential as fourth industrial revolution approaches. The Australian.

Hewett, J. (2018, December 5). Jobs anxiety hampering policy. The Australian .

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