Impact of automation on 500,000 jobs tackled at Belfast summit

Ravin Jesuthasan, a recognised global thought leader on the future of work and human capital, will be one of the keynote speakers at the Future of Work Solutions Summit in Belfast on Wednesday

THERE'S no reason why Northern Ireland cannot be a significant economic global player - but the question to be asked is not how many jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence and robotics, but how the region can get ahead of the rest of the world by changing work to get the best out of its people and automation?

That will be the key message from two of the world's leading experts in automation to an audience of 250 business leaders, policy-makers and educationalists at the Catalyst Inc Future of Work Solutions Summit in the Belfast Waterfront today.

The summit is organised by Catalyst Inc as a follow up to its Knowledge Economy Report, which contained specific research on the impact of automation on close to half a million jobs in Northern Ireland.

Steve Orr, director of Connect at Catalyst Inc, says it is not enough to simply sound the alarm bells.

“We have to provide a substantial opportunity for our business community and our educationalists to have a real say not just in identifying the threats, but in making very real suggestions as to how we tackle this global issue,” he says ahead of the summit.

The message from keynote speaker Ravin Jesuthasan, a contributor to the World Economic Forum and global practice leader at Willis Towers Watson in Chicago, will be: “It's time to move beyond alarmist rhetoric about workplace automation and consider how human-machine collaboration can deliver a higher level of productivity.”

That sentiment is echoed by indigenous companies Coca Cola Hellenic, Willowbrook Foods, AuditComply and Liberty IT, who will outline their experiences of implementing automation as an essential move to maintain competitiveness.

Jonathan Downing from Northern Ireland, another keynote speaker and researcher at Oxford University, is part of a world leading team that has produced the most globally recognised information on the impact of automation on jobs by 2030.

"Whatever job you do, if you invest in developing the right skills you can leave yourself in a better place to benefit from the opportunities of the future," he will say.

The Future of Work Solutions Summit, sponsored by Bank of Ireland, has also driven a significant business coalition including CBI, IoD, Manufacturing NI, FSB, CIPD and Women in Business, who have lobbied their members on this issue.

Steve Orr adds: :“Today is just the start of business leaders sharing what they know about how we can thrive in the age of automation. Going forward, we will work to build a coalition of business, acadamia, elected and civic leaders to work together to ensure Northern Ireland business and citizens are best positioned for a challenging economic future.”

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