Regional jobs at risk of automation

By Jarryd Barca

More than 1,400 jobs in the Federation Council area are of technological threat, according to the Regional Australia Institute (RAI).

Nearly 29 per cent of jobs in the council area are rated as ‘highly vulnerable’ to automation, with hospitality workers, sales assistants and salespersons and food process workers the most at risk.

In fact, almost 75 per cent of Federation Council jobs (3,594 of 4,862) are rated as at least moderately vulnerable. 

It’s all according to the RAI’s regional job automation pack, which developed a data tool to take a close look into each local government area in Australia as a future of robots beckons.

While admitting modern technology has been slowly replacing employment positions for a number of years, Corowa Business Chamber President Mary Hetherington told The Free Press the statistics aren’t too alarming.

“The nature of work that humans perform has always evolved and changed. As individuals we need to recognise this, upskill and re-train appropriately,” Ms Hetherington said.

“Obviously, it is always a concern for the growth of a regional area to have sufficient employment opportunities but with new technology comes the opportunity for the creation of jobs that we are not even aware that exist yet. 

“I am sure that the blacksmiths in their day were concerned each time they saw a new automobile on the road. 

“Modern technology is a gradual developing process, so we will be relying on businesses to take the imitative and develop new industry and technology for future employment.”

RAI CEO Jack Archer shared similar thoughts to Ms Hetherington, saying while it is true some jobs will be lost or dramatically changed due to automation, many new jobs will be created in the process and now is the time to start preparing the communities.  

“It’s the first time leaders have insights at their fingertips that are both practical and useful in helping them consider the issues in their community,” Mr Archer said. 

Ms Hetherington said the best way to improve labour market opportunities in the town is to “encourage industry that is best suited to our area and perhaps not as likely to be susceptible to automation”.

She also lauded Corowa TAFE’s Connected Learning Centre, saying it’s a current way the council area is catering for the future.

“This training centre has the potential to increase the amount and variety of courses already provided so it would be great to see it reach its full potential,” Ms Hetherington said.

“Many local regional businesses in trucking, engineering and trades for example have the potential to expand if skilled workers are available locally.”

The Regional Job Automation Pack is the first release from the RAI’s Future of Regional Jobs Inquiry Program. Further work over coming months will build on this knowledge, providing regions with more information about job creation opportunities in regional Australia.  

 “Some regional areas are more susceptible to automation than others, and each region also has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses to deal with the changing nature of work,” Mr Archer said. 

 “Heartland regions have the lowest percentage of highly vulnerable jobs, but are often less able to adapt to new technologies due to lack of necessary infrastructure and expertise. 

Regional cities, on the other hand, have the greatest proportion of jobs highly vulnerable to automation. However, regional cities have an advantage in managing change as they are better placed when it comes to availability of technological infrastructure and professionals.  

“Our research demonstrates regional cities have the capacity to transform more readily due to their increased level of innovation, entrepreneurial skills, technological readiness and a capable local education sector to help them adapt,” Mr Archer said.  

Mr Archer said while there are less highly vulnerable jobs in rural areas, it may be more difficult for these areas to respond unless there are changes to local education services and engagement.

“What this information emphasises is that as the workforce structure changes in regional Australia, communities need to be looking at how they will build local skills and new businesses that align to the job demands of the future,” he said.

Technology has certainly reshaped the workplace; self-serve checkouts, airport machine check-ins and the Washington Post’s robot news-breaker are just a few examples. 

School teachers, accommodation and hospitality managers and construction, distribution and production managers in the Federation Council region can breathe a sigh of relief, who work in the three least vulnerable occupations.