Technology and technology skills may offset job loss due to automation

The relationship to broadband access and the following article isn’t direct but it feels like there’s a lot of overlap. A new report from the Brookings Institution indicates that many jobs will be lost to automation. And the Midwest will be pretty hard hit with its history of manufacturing and agriculture BUT Minnesota is an outlier. MinnPost reports…

South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana all rank in the top 10 states for jobs with high potential for automation, according to the report. Minnesota, however, is a relative outlier. It’s ranked No. 40, which is the lowest in the region. Only Illinois, which was ranked No. 37, came close.

Part of the reason Minnesota is in better standing is the strong healthcare industry.

Technology is a game changer for the impact of automation…

Just because a job is at risk of automation, Greiner said, doesn’t mean it will simply be eliminated. Very few will be, he said. Instead, many jobs will be “augmented” by technology. The Brookings report says machines will often only substitute for certain tasks, rather than  take over every duty in a present-day job.

Here’s an example: The trucking industry has been working on that by experimenting with platooning, a practice in which semi-trucks synchronize their driving with the help of technology in order to follow each other closely on highways and save gas through drafting. Each truck still has a human driver. Minnesota’s Legislature is considering whether to legalize platooning this year.

Using technology to ease some tasks may be a good thing for businesses struggling to find workers as baby boomers retire. Minnesota currently has more than 140,000 open jobs despite an ultra-low 2.8 percent unemployment rate, a fact attributed at least in part to retiring workers.

“I’d say our department and the data tell us we’re probably going to need automation,” Greiner said. “We’re going to need it to supplement our slowing labor force growth.”

The report also says jobs involving greater automation usually, but not always, bring higher wages in part because people need different skills to operate and oversee the technology. Those higher wages, particularly in rural areas, can spark a stronger economy, which in turn can stimulate more jobs, the report says. Greiner said for that reason it’s still possible that states with a higher risk of automation may be better off in the long run compared to Minnesota.

We talk a lot about access to technology here but this is a good example of the importance of digital skills. Digital skills may help Minnesotans automate jobs on their timeline. Digital skills may lead to innovation that surpasses the hole that automation could leave in the economy. It feels like with increasing access to broadband in Minnesota and a little breathing room we might be able to get ahead of some of these changes.

This entry was posted in economic development, MN, Research, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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