Taking the stage on the second day of Autodesk University London, Autodesk CMO Lisa Campbell gave an update on the company’s efforts to make the future of work better and brighter in the age of automation.
The skills gap is a global problem—there are millions of vacant roles that employers can’t fill, yet there are millions looking for work. And although automation will displace 75 million jobs by 2022, 133 million new roles will also be created—ultimately a net gain of 58 million jobs globally, according to The World Economic Forum.
This means we’re more likely to face a shortage of skills than a shortage of jobs. Workers will have to adapt to a more digitally sophisticated work environment. They will collaborate closer with machines to create better outcomes.
AI, robotics, and automation are frequently portrayed as the villain in this scenario—and it’s true—they do have the potential to exacerbate the problem ifwe are not deliberate in how we leverage automation to create more opportunity, not less.
The convergence of the design and manufacturingindustries is a key turning point for innovation in the sector. We must expand our view of the opportunity from ‘advanced manufacturing’ to one that embraces both sectors. In the UK, manufacturing makes up 44% of total UK exports, 70% of business R&D, and directly employs 2.6 million people. When you combine the two industries – with 1.5 million employed in the design sector – that number becomes almost 4 million. Creating this single connected discipline, takes ‘advanced manufacturing’ to the next level.This is a new era of agile design and manufacturing.
Better collaboration between design and manufacturing workers and robots can both increase the quality of output and productivity on factory floors and relinquish workers from monotonous and often dangerous work.
Small-to-medium-sized manufacturers make up a significant portion of the industry as a whole in the UK. With less resources and scope to dedicate to finding new talent and adopting new technology, they’re reaching a crucial turning point. Last year alone, there were 59,000 manufacturing job openings in the UK, yet only 34,000 students were enrolled in manufacturing-focused degree programs. The success of British manufacturers depends on a digital transformation that a ‘digital catalyst’ might just be able to trigger.
Asif Moghal, senior industry manager for design and manufacturing at Autodesk, has beenworking closely with UK SMEs in the sector to tackle the issue. The new generation of digital natives that are joining the workforce provide a key to tackling the skills shortage. Their potential to spur the industry’s digital transformation is the basis of Autodesk’s recently launched Digital Catalyst program, part of our Future of British Manufacturing Initiative (FoBMi). He comments, “There are ample opportunities for companies to address the skills shortage, but a new approach needs to be taken, where educators and the industry work closer together to match talent with the organizations that need it most. With the Digital Catalyst programme, we aim to bridge the skills gap by placing students into design and manufacturing SMEs, accelerating the collaboration between education and industry.”
After successfully piloting this approach over the past 12 months, the programme is now being launched nationally. The goal is to place 50 students in 50 SMEs across the UK. Umar Hossain, a PhD student at Imperial College, was placed at CP Cases as a Digital Catalyst last year. The company was exploring additive manufacturing for its bespoke protective cases and racks for commercial and military use. Hossain was able to reduce one of their digital processes from 180 mins down to just 15 mins.
Autodesk has also collaborated on a report with the Monitor Institute, a part of Deloitte dedicated to understanding the challenges underpinning the skills gap and how to help workers adapt and thrive in the age of automation. You can read more about those findings here. We’re proud to support and drive more research that helps the industry understand the challenges that are holding its workers back, and seize on opportunities to embrace automation in a way that benefits everyone.
Worldskills is an influential company in the world of vocational training. Every year, they hold a global competition where students from around the world compete in more than 45 skills (Autodesk tools are used for 30 of them). The goal: help students develop skills and high standards of competence for the workplace.
At AU London, WorldSkills staged a new BIM competition, designed to reflect the role of a BIM modeller and the standards that are expected within the AEC industry. To simulate the actual type of work that students will eventually take up, WorldSkills developed the competition with guidance from real world professionals to ensure industry standard testing and employability.
There are a lot of things we can’t change about the future, but there’s even more that we can have an impact on—and that’s why we’re taking a multi-pronged approach with different programs, ongoing collaborative research, and skills development to ensure our tools are helping our customers thrive, no matter where they are in their careers. This is a new era of agile design and manufacturing.