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North East Yorkshire

We need to embrace the rise of automation

30 Aug 2018

IoD Yorkshire. IoD North East

We need to embrace the rise of automation

Natalie Sykes Regional Director Institute of Directors

We are fast approaching a new age of robots, artificial intelligence and other technologies which will transform the way we live and work.

 A report earlier this year by the Centre for Cities think tank suggested some of our northern towns and cities would be badly affected by the rise in automation.

Wakefield and Doncaster were cited as having large numbers of jobs in sectors which would be at risk as new technologies replace the need for human labour.

The report predicted that a fifth of jobs in urban areas in the UK are in occupations under threat from automation and globalisation, with retail, customer services and warehousing among the most vulnerable.

Rather than see the arrival of automation as a threat, I prefer to view it as an exciting opportunity. How best can we, the Northern Powerhouse, embrace the advent of new technologies, rise to the challenges they will inevitably bring and turn them to our advantage?

Firstly, we should continue to invest in emerging sectors – digital, creative, robotics and advanced engineering. As a region, we are already strong in these areas but we could do more to ensure we are seen as pioneers, staying ahead of the competition from nations across the globe.

In addition to investing on the ground at home, we must also focus on attracting much more inward investment by global brands which can benefit from a UK workforce keen to learn and equip themselves with new skills derived from using new technologies.

Brands such as Nissan and Hitachi have invested heavily in the North East. In 2015, 25 Japanese companies employed almost 14,000 people in the North East while the number in Yorkshire and Humber was 2,900.

We should encourage other like-minded companies to consider our region as the ideal place for a UK-headquartered operation. We have the space and the skills to deliver world class production facilities just like those enjoyed by our East Asian partners.

A third and vital element in our strategy to enable us to embrace automation is education. The national curriculum needs to be adapted to ensure students are equipped to take on the jobs of the future, jobs which have yet to be created.

I endorse the Centre for Cities view that automation and globalisation will bring ‘huge opportunities’ but action is required now to ensure Yorkshire and the North East as well as the rest of the UK adapts and is ready for a new era.

  • Dan Lewis, IoD Senior Adviser, Infrastructure Policy will be with us on 10 October for our Open House at Cloth Hall Court, Leeds, along with Dr Alan James, a leading former figure from Virgin Hyperloop One. They will be joined by Fleur Butler, chairman of Conservative Women’s Association, Yorkshire and Humber.

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30 August 2018

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