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New Industrial Revolution Displaces Skilled Tradespeople

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Nearly half a million extraction and construction workers will find themselves out of a job in five years’ time, says the World Economic Forum (WEF) in a recent projection. The reason is partly due to the advent of Industry 4.0, the new industrial revolution sweeping through various fields. When it hits labor-intensive markets like building and mining, skilled tradespeople may find themselves displaced by advances in robotics.

Yet the idea technology will simply replace people who currently perform these jobs manually isn’t the whole picture. The same report from the WEF predicts the implementation of these advancements will create around 339,000 positions in extraction and construction. This is the other half of the potential problem: those displaced by mechanical substitutes do not necessarily have the training to fill these new jobs. In fact, the report speculates the new jobs robotics may create in these industries are specifically for architects and engineers.

The report lays out a stark picture in numbers, stating there will be around half a million tradesmen out of work at the same time there are about half a million jobs no one is skilled to fill. If the problem is a difference in skill set between employable workers and available jobs, the solution lies in training willing tradespeople to take on the jobs of a rapidly transformed industry. Extraction and construction businesses are already contending with the problems caused by a noticeable lack of specially-skilled employees.

Not all hope is lost for workers struggling to find their place in extraction and construction industries. Technological advances in both fields may help job trends tack in the other direction. Rather than having to update one’s skill set every few years according to market demands, technology may be able to fill in for current gaps in employee knowledge or experience. WEF suggests this will take initiative on the part of the entire industry to train and educate workers, creating a labor force that can proficiently work at both manual tasks and the operation of new technology.