Half of all modern jobs can be undertaken by technology instead of people, according to the recent Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS), at the Paris-Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi.

This trend will increase in the future, threatening job security for those who do not have the right skills, according to the assembled experts. Specifically, in the UAE, educational institutions were warned to make sure IT topics are taught to children to prepare them for the future job market.

In the manufacturing sector, smart technology and big data are increasingly being used to streamline operations, resulting in the advent of a ‘fourth industrial revolution’. Abu Dhabi is aiming to positon itself as a capital of this revolution and increase investment in its industrial sector from $36.7bn in 2016 to $70bn by 2025.

The UAE has also just launched the UAE Council for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, whose role will be to implement a strategy and framework to help the country adapt to the increased use of technology in the working world.

John Fleming, former executive vice president of global manufacturing and labour affairs at Ford Motor Company, told the summit that the innovation gap is the biggest challenge, but encouragingly, education leaders in the UAE have given the impression that there’s an “opportunity to do things differently.”

“Every school needs an understanding of IT,” added David Hoey, CEO of Worldskills International.

Commenting on the kind of training people are going to need in future, Hannah McDermott, director of Dubai HR consultancy People Plus, said: “This is very dependent on the nature of the technology that is being introduced. There is a generation gap here, which makes the introduction of new technology a challenge – employees in their 20s to 40s should be able to pick up the principles of new tools and technology quickly, but those in more senior roles – or those that have been doing the same role, the same way for an extended period of time – may struggle to keep up.

“Prime examples of this can be found in the shift with organisations moving away from Windows in favour of alternative platforms that are supported by hardware at a lower price – such as Gsuite. Equally, Oracle and SAP are becoming more mainstream in the UAE, and consequently the size of finance, HR and in some instances IT departments is reducing. These functions are also being affected by the creation of shared service centres and having certain processes taken care of off shore,” she added.

The UAE could be looking at a skills gap in the future if it doesn’t act now to educate its youth in IT topics. “With the introduction of tax and the increasing cost of living for families – such as school fees – it is likely that there will be a knock-on impact,” said McDermott. “However, the UAE is fortunate as it is still able to attract new talent to the region at all levels and disciplines, so it’s difficult to predict if and where there will be specific gaps.”

It’s not only the manufacturing sector under threat from the advance of technology. In a recent speech, Tesla boss Elan Musk predicted that the development of autonomous cars would result in 12 to 15 per cent of the global workforce becoming unemployed.

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