Moving America Forward

The Jobs Robots Won’t Take

May 5, 2017
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The Jobs Robots Won’t Take
The American auto industry has added approximately 52,000 robots to its workforce in the past seven years. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

In April 2017, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to the lowest level in a decade. And while there are many factors to consider, there’s evidence that automation and the rise of robots may not eliminate as many jobs as projected. Here are some of the sectors offering long-term job security for decades to come.

CLEAN ENERGY

The fastest growing profession in the country: wind turbine technicians.

Solar energy is also a bright spot for the unemployed and underemployed, “growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy,” according a 2017 report published by Environmental Defense Fund. The majority of this growth consists of installation jobs. Robots can’t climb onto rooftops to mount photovoltaic panels (or repair them), which means there’s an ever-growing number of positions for living, breathing workers.

EDUCATION, HEALTHCARE AND CUSTOMER RELATIONS

“Where humanity matters there will be humans,” says business advisor and technology consultant Shelly Palmer.

Schools, hospitals and businesses continue to need workers to do “people things” since robots can only react to predictive behaviors or conduct menial tasks. “Robots do not yet have the ability to perform complex tasks like negotiation or persuading, and they are not as proficient in generating new ideas as they are at solving problems,” says Mynul Khan, chief executive officer of Field Nation in an op-ed for Tech Crunch.

To learn how education could adapt in an automated world, check out this additional reading:

How to Prepare for an Automated Future

ENGINEERING AND ARCHITECTURE

The number of architectural and engineering jobs has more than tripled from last year’s average of 2,000 each month to 7,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the industry isn’t just having a moment. It’s estimated by 2022, biomedical engineering will experience 23 percent growth, environmental engineering 12 percent and civil engineering (the field with the most positions) 8.4 percent.

Fueling the demand for this non-automated workforce? An aging population and crumbling infrastructure.

MAINTENANCE

Call it “Rise of the Maintenance Workforce.” While robots are clearly putting pressure on the American labor force, when they break, humans are needed to fix them. The demand for people who can repair hardware and software, as well as code new programs, is expected to steadily increase. By 2022, there may be more than half a million new jobs in robotic and machine learning maintenance, installation and repair.  Some labor experts project that modern technologies will ultimately create more jobs than they destroy.

This gradual shift can best be witnessed in U.S. manufacturing, which has shed almost 5 million jobs since 2000. The auto industry has introduced around 52,000 robots during the past seven years, helping to spur the creation of nearly 260,000 jobs. A 2013 study done by the International Federation of Robots (which despite its name is not made up of robots; rather it’s a group of tech industry leaders) estimated that 10 to 15 percent of jobs in the auto sector were created because robots and machines were introduced to assembly lines.

To learn more about how robotics is affecting manufacturing, check out this additional reading:

The New Hire: How a New Generation of Robots Is Transforming Manufacturing
How Artificial Intelligence and Robots Will Radically Transform the Economy

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