Iceland – Future Skills for Workplace Sustainability

The job market is constantly changing as new technology is developed. It has been a common theme in human history to fear robots taking over our jobs. In a way, this has been happening for decades, albeit not in a sci-fi horror movie way. Technology has made its way into our daily lives and workplaces. All sorts of tasks are being automated and processes digitized. Many don’t even realize it, but various forms of AI are already in our workplaces. Even countries like Iceland, despite being small in size and population, are experiencing tech-related changes.

Preparing for the future   

Icelandair and DHL are among the many companies in Iceland that are preparing for major automation. These companies hope to use modern technology to improve their performance. While automation eliminates the need for certain jobs, it also creates a lot of new opportunities, particularly jobs in the field of IT, AI, and of course, the installation and maintenance of these new technologies.

Technology and Innovation have already brought great change to the job marketplace leading to a disruption of the skills that are needed. Not only is this happening now, but it is happening rapidly. It is hard to catch which future skills will be necessary for the near future, so education and being updated day by day is the most important thing now those days.

That is the reason why the Youth Time International Movement in partnership with the University of Iceland and the City of Reykjavik will organize The International Youth Summer School in Iceland that will be held from August 10th until 15th 2020. More than 90 participants all over the world will get the opportunity to learn from the most experienced experts about the main topic: Future Skills for Workplace Sustainability: Preparing for Transition.


How will automation affect our lives?

Many airlines worldwide have already started automating their services. This includes self-check-in kiosks where passengers can not only choose their seats but also order and pay for in-flight refreshments. Bogi Nils Bogason, CEO of Icelandair, spoke about this recently in an interview with Reykjavik Grapevine. He explained that while passengers will do much more by themselves in the future, there are good job prospects at Icelandair due to the expected long-term growth of the aviation sector.

DHL has the same positive outlook on employment in light of automation. DHL Iceland has published an entire article on the topic of “Will a robot take my job?” The article clearly outlines the areas that are highly susceptible to computerization. These include the bulk of office and administrative support operations and labor in production as well as in the transportation and logistics sectors.

Future skills on Iceland
Will a robot take my job? – Illustrative Photo

New technologies are creating our reality?

The bottom line is that new technologies have been changing working patterns for as long as we can remember. This goes back to the invention of electricity and even the wheel. From history, it is evident that these developments have done wonders for the economy and have essentially created more jobs than they have taken.

Due to the rate of development of new technology, looking at what happened in the past may not be an accurate indicator of the future. While economists agree that new technologies can create a large wave of short-term unemployment, the effects of long-term automation are subject to long-running disagreements. Some jobs will completely disappear forever. At the same time, new technology always creates abundant jobs for workers with proper training.

Currently, the number of industrial robot jobs increases by 14% each year. The three industries facing the highest risk of automation are transportation, storage, and manufacturing. It is also estimated that robots could replace 20 million manufacturing jobs by 2030. Right now, 33% of new jobs in the United States are for occupations that did not exist 25 years ago. In just the next two years, the total task hours completed by humans will drop by 13%.

Today’s youth population is expected to be hit the hardest by automation, digitalization, and the rise of artificial intelligence in the workplace. Iceland stands out alongside Germany and Switzerland when it comes to having strong prospects and gearing their youth towards highly skilled jobs and professions. The initiative to prepare youth for a constantly changing workplace can be the key to their future success.

Fear of workplace automation

The Icelandic Institute for Intelligent Machines is a non-profit institute that was organized specifically to accelerate the rate of innovation. They strategically bridge academic research with industrial engineering needs. Their work has gained global recognition, and their director, Dr. Kristinn R. Þórisson, has also attempted to reassure the world that AI doesn’t have to be scary.

While there are many fears about workplace automation, there are people on the opposite end of the spectrum. Many people are looking towards technology in the hope of improving their abilities. According to Fortunly, more than 70% of people are willing to augment their brains and bodies in order to improve their employment prospects.

Iceland is right place for digitalization and future transition

Iceland is a great example of a country that takes full advantage of digitalization. Even back in 2015, Iceland had the highest number of people using the internet, at 98.2%. They are not just using the internet to check their social media accounts. Their healthcare system and most other social systems are digitized. According to Paula Gould, digital marketing expert and long-term resident of Reykjavik, Iceland, the entirety of Iceland’s population is digitized and searchable.

Technological advances can also introduce new investment opportunities. Digitalization has always played an important role, but it has become instrumental to keeping businesses afloat during the coronavirus outbreak.  No less than 80% of the current data-sphere was created in the last six years, and it is expected to quadruple over the next five. This rate of expansion creates investment opportunities in cloud computing, 5G, AI, and cyber-security.

With the rapid development in technology, the world is changing. It already feels as though a huge part of modern life has been uploaded onto the internet. Technology has woven itself into the very fiber of our everyday activities and into the workplace. AI, automation, and digitization are changing the way we work and the types of jobs we do. While there are certain worries that come with the territory, there is a lot that society can gain as we grow more tech-savvy.  The nations of the world can learn a lot from Iceland’s preparedness for an increasingly digital society.

Photos: Shutterstock / Photomontage: Martina Advaney

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