A tech exec's story about his 16-year-old daughter sums up the world's jobs problem

Richard lumbAccentureRichard Lumb, CEO of Accenture’s financial services business spoke to Business Insider in Davos for the WEF meeting.

DAVOS, Switzerland — Richard Lumb, the CEO of Financial Services at Accenture, told Business Insider a story about his 16-year-old daughter that summed up the problem Britain has with finding enough skilled workers to take up newly created jobs in highly-skilled areas such as STEM (science, tech, engineering, and maths.)

If companies cannot find workers skilled enough to take on roles in these sectors, then a lot of employees will become displaced.

As an example of how the governments, especially the UK’s, need to step up and create new policies and programmes to get more young people into STEM, Lumb told us about how his daughter’s situation is a prime example of the problem happening to many developed societies.

“The technology revolution will have an impact on jobs and everyone recognises that. It will significantly reduce [lower skilled] jobs but it will also increase the number of digital jobs and across other areas as well,” Lumb told BI.

“At the same time, employers are still finding enough workers that can take up those jobs and I think it’s up to both businesses and government to respond to that by developing a strategy and programmes to offset a massive reduction in roles. The question will be speed and in what way the tech sector can also create jobs quick enough to offset the losses.

The government needs to respond and get to the source of the problem — there are not enough young people being educated in the right tech skills or in apprenticeships.

“While it is up to companies, I do think the government needs to respond and get to the source of the problem — there are not enough young people being educated in the right tech skills or in apprenticeships. There needs to be more emphasis from an early age to adopt STEM subjects. A classic example is that my 16-year-old daughter goes to a good school in London but there are only 11 of them doing a GCSE in computer science. It is an incredibly low number.”

Accenture is one of the largest professional services companies in the world and is a Fortune 500 company. As of 2016, it has 394,000 employees with clients from 200 cities across 120 countries worldwide.

In its new report, entitled “Harnessing Revolution,” Accenture points out that automation will be the greatest risk to robots replacing jobs in the future.

But as an example of corporate responsibility to help save jobs, Lumb also said that within Accenture, automation
replaced 17,000 jobs over the last 18 months — although no one actually lost their job because the company made sure that they helped retrain employees for newly-created roles.

The World Economic Forum’s benchmark “Global Risks” report for 2017 said that the biggest risk to doing business globally is unemployment or underemployment, which is mainly due to how technology will kill jobs. The previous year, WEF warned in another report, entitled “The Future of Jobs,” that skills and jobs displacement will impact every industry and geographical region.

However, it did note that these job losses can be offset by employment growth in other areas.

WEF estimated that 7.1 million jobs could be lost through redundancy, automation, or disintermediation, while the creation of 2.1 million new jobs — mainly in more specialised areas such as computing, maths, architecture, and engineering — could partially offset some of the losses.

Lumb pointed out though that if not enough people are being trained to take up those jobs, then they will end up being left out of the workforce because they are not qualified enough to be employed in these positions.

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