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Automated Manufacturing

As T&T moves to recover from COVID-19 it is imperative a parallel economy is created using IT as its backbone to foster different types of initiatives, including the creation of new jobs.

CEO of the T&T Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) Vashti Guyadeen also advised that data intelligence is the cornerstone of this sector.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has estimated the emerging professions resulting from automation could account for 6.1 million jobs globally between 2020 to 2022.

Guyadeen noted the role that data analytics and technology have played globally in reinventing public and private services.

“Unprecedented circumstances are pushing entrepreneurs to find innovative solutions by re-engineering processes and using technology to deliver new types of services.

“Open data practices, data mining and technological adaptation is the nexus for these sectors. Estonia has emerged as one of the global leaders in e-commerce by intentional policies aimed at integrating ICT into the fabric of their society,” she explained.

Many of local businesses,Guyadeen said, are seeing a silver lining.

Noting that remote work is here to stay she said animators for instance, have stated emphatically that given the digital nature of their business they have been advocating for full scale digitization.

This, she added, will enable them to be globally competitive.

Technologically driven industries require new types of services including financial products.

Building an export culture

The quest to become an exporter is not an easy task.

Entrepreneurs must not only have the drive but also supportive systems and institutions, Guyadeen said, noting that herein lies opportunities for bright and versatile university graduates.

She said the foundation blocks of building competitive services ought to include market intelligence,sector intelligence, unique value proposition and flexibility to adapt.

Standardisation of technologies

An emailed response from the Employers Consultative Association (ECA) said T&T like the rest of the world is in the throes of a new revolution, referred to by the World Economic Forum as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Much like revolutions of the past, the 4IR will disrupt the way of life and fundamentally shift how people consume, produce and relate, the ECA said.

It added that this represents a reality that is driven by the convergence of biology and the physical world with the digital world and the standardisation of technologies such as artificial intelligence, digitalisation, genome editing, augmented reality, robotics, and 3-D printing.

“Quite naturally, the world of work is not immune to the effects of this revolution and as new technologies emerge, organisations will be forced to adapt and re-evaluate their people development and other management strategies,” the ECA said.

It noted the appearance of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many organisations and workplaces to take a quantum leap into the virtual world, fundamentally changing how people work, manage our human resources and deliver goods and services.

This phenomenon will undoubtedly create new business opportunities, new markets and new or redesigned jobs that require new skill-sets, the ECA said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has also served to highlight the volatility of process and service-related jobs, while reinforcing the resiliency of trade related jobs,”it added.

The ECA said based on technological advancements and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is expect to be the continued automation of time-intensive, routine tasks and jobs.

“Automation is not just affecting activities that traditionally have been subject to digitalisation in the manufacturing sector, but also a diverse and wide range of jobs in other sub-sectors,” the ECA said.

It cited that for example, the International Organization of Employers (IOE), the largest organization of employers in the world, have found that jobs in transportation, logistics, as well as office and administrative support, are at high risk of automation. These findings are further supported by the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Future of Jobs Report, which gives some examples of new roles that are likely to increase in demand and those that are at high risk of becoming redundant in the next five to 10 years.

More contracts jobs likely?

While contract employment has become a standard employment option, the ECA believes there will begin to be a divergence between the demand and availability for this form of employment given our experiences during COVID-19.

It explained that from the worker’s perspective, engaging in contract work meant that around the world, many were forced to stay at home with no form of social protection and no employment benefits.

It is therefore likely that the demand for this form of employment will decrease, the ECA said.

“However, given the sudden temporary and perhaps permanent business closures faced by many employers in this crisis, it is expected that many will increasingly decide to move away from the traditional long-term type employment arrangements to fixed-term contract employment,” the ECA said.

It noted that a primary driver of this preferred option is the fixed costs associated with indefinite long-term (permanent) employment arrangements.

“It is therefore crucial that all parties to the conversation continue to engage in social dialogue for a mutually beneficial way forward in treating with fixed-term contract and other gig-based forms of employment.

“To not do so, places the associated burden of a crisis such as this pandemic squarely at the feet of the State and by extension, tax-payers,” the ECA added.

HR policies now have to be adjusted

Workplace practices such as in-person meetings, work-related travel, classroom training, family-day events, use of lunch rooms and other common spaces, among other group activities, will not only have to be adjusted, but in some instances, developed for the first time, particularly in customer facing businesses, the ECA noted.

It said, quite naturally, legislation such as the OSH Act and the Workmen’s’ Compensation Act must be revisited and amended to bring them in line with new work place spacing, hygiene, safety and environmental requirements and the expected increase in work from home arrangements.

It is also anticipated that as new forms of work are established and remote work is increasingly adopted, HR and ICT policies, employment contracts, changes in labour standards,, performance management and more importantly, managing for results, will all need to be assessed and updated for relevance to the ‘new normal.’

Flexicurity

Labour expert Lesmore Frederick believes that many businesses will now have to introduce flexicurity as the new norm in the work place.

Flexicurity is an integrated strategy for enhancing, at the same time, flexibility and security in the labour market. It attempts to reconcile employers’ need for a flexible workforce with workers’ need for security – confidence that they will not face long periods of unemployment.

Frederick said this means that traditional hours of work like eight to four may no longer be appropriate.

“Certainly it will result in a reduction of the labour force by and large in the both in the private and public sector

“More technology will be introduced and it has become crucial where one has to work out how much labour to be used and how how of technology to be used,” Frederick said.

He added that employers will now have to re-examine the aspect of mutual gains, adding that this is where good industrial practices come in.