It’s reassuring that Labour and Small Enterprise Development Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus is publicly warning of the impact of new workplace technologies.
Speaking at a trade union conference on the Future of Work at the Hilton Trinidad, Baptiste-Primus said that “no country will be spared the disruptive impact of what the future of work has in store for us.”
It suggests that in the Cabinet, there is some level of interest and concern in the rapid changes that technology is bringing to the workplace and ultimately, to the workforce.
The Labour Minister believes that union representatives should make ready to adapt to the changes ahead and embracing the potential that the changing world of work offers to the workforce.
But to do that, union leaders will need to start thinking of their role as enablers of possibility and not just challenging perceived injustices, because many of the workforce changes of the future will be driven by economic advantage and not the thrift of businessmen.
The future will be driven by human potential and unions have a robust role to play in taking a leadership role in inspiring their members to be more capable, informed and skilled players in a marketplace that will reward those who prove capable of navigating its fast-moving environment.
It’s a simple fact that robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning are already creating dramatic changes in first world nations that traditionally lead in technology implementation. Such developments will filter down to affect the general public far more quickly than anyone expects. Every major technological advance lubricates the next, and in just the last five years the dramatic advances that have been wrought in just machine learning alone have fundamentally changed our understanding of what automation is and more compellingly, can be.
Current projections for changes in the workplace in the United States alone suggest that automation will move 22.7 million jobs to machines by 2025, most of them jobs with high physical demand, but automation is also expected to create 13.6 million new jobs in the same time-frame, almost all of them dedicated to the value of human decision-making and intuition, including software design, support, training and engineering.
The world of work in five years, far less ten, will be dramatically affected by these labour changing innovations and nations, including TT, must prepare for these changes.
That means re-engineering not just those who are of working age now but creating more agile learning systems that prepare the children in our schools for a working world and for jobs that will be very different from those of today.