UK Government: We 'Must Help' Workforce Retrain as Businesses Digitize

Minister for the Cabinet Office Matthew Hancock says digitization and automation can help economy, but recognizes need to help people make transition.

IT training

By Steve McCaskill

The UK government claims the benefits of business digitization outweigh the negatives and that it would help those who lose their jobs as a result of automation to acquire new skills and find new jobs.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Matthew Hancock said that the evidence was "overwhelming" that technology could help economies and societies and that people should not fear the inevitable changes to the labor market that will ensue.

"A debate is going on around the world about how technology is either strengthening economies or leading to a labor gap and people losing jobs," he said at the BT Tower in London today, adding that he supported the former view.

Government Support

"A successful economy is one where you unambiguously support new tech that improves productivity and help people with that transition.

"We need to help people through these changes but humanity overall is better off [by adopting more technology]."

Numerous tech vendors are pushing the idea of digitization or automation of business processes and manufacturing, claiming it can lead to greater efficiency and reduced costs. This view is reinforced by the advent of the Internet of things (IoT), which allow companies to take remote, automated actions thanks to advanced networking applications and data gathered from sensors.

When asked by TechWeekEurope about what kind of support would be offered, Hancock said it was important to teach people about transferable skills that can land them a job far more satisfying than watching an assembly line with a clip board. Apprenticeships would also play a key part, he said, as the government looks to address any looming skills gap.

"Demand for typists has fallen in half for the past 20 years," he offered as an example. "People who are typists need to retrain. It’s nothing to do with government, its technology."

A report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in January claimed that increasing automation would lead to a loss of around 7.1 million roles, with just 2 million created to offset this.