Work in Croydon? There is a 60% likelihood that your job won’t exist in ten years’ time


By - Wednesday 3rd February, 2016

Jonny Rose brings a message of hope for those who choose to hear it, and a warning for those who don’t


Technology is replacing jobs

A 2013 study by the Oxford Martin School estimated that 47% of jobs in the US could be susceptible to computerisation over the next two decades. In Australia, the figure has been pitched at 70% of jobs within a decade. A study by the McKinsey Global Institute predicted that, by 2025, robots could jeopardise between 40 million and 75 million jobs worldwide.

In the words of famous venture capitalist Marc Andreessen: “technology is eating the world”. And as well as making our lives a lot more connected and convenient, it will also mean fewer jobs for Croydonians.

Why this is happening?

There have been two major developments over the past 10 years. The first relates to advances in ‘machine learning’ – the ability to organise large volumes of data so you can get actionable intelligence. The second is the availability of data of all kinds, coming from smartphones and other low-cost sensors out there in the environment. When you add those two things up – the availability of the data along with the ability to interpret it – it enables a whole lot of things that you couldn’t do before.

Many areas of manual work are being affected. Robots in factories and warehouses are becoming more mobile, versatile and affordable. A US-designed robot called Baxter, which can handle a wide variety of tasks from loading to packaging, currently costs £19,000. If you’re digging a ditch or painting a house, laying pipes or setting bricks – anything that involves basic hand-eye co-ordination – there will be low-cost, efficient mechanical devices that can do that work.

It’s not just manual labour that’s ripe for automation: white-collar jobs are also at risk as software becomes more sophisticated. One example is Quill, a program developed by US company Narrative Science that crunches data and generates reports in a journalistic style.

Data analysis work in areas such as advertising and finance is being outsourced to computers and even the authority of medical experts is being challenged: IBM’s Watson computer, which won the American TV quiz Jeopardy in 2011, is now being used to diagnose cancer patients in the US.

That’s not to say that all is lost – there will still be jobs out there for humans to keep their livelihoods. Machines like Watson can sift through symptoms, medical histories and the latest research to deliver diagnoses and suggest potential treatments, but there are limits to its diagnostic abilities and, unlike a human doctor, it cannot treat patients with empathy and understanding.

However, the reality is that a very large fraction of our workforce is engaged in activities that are on some level routine, repetitive and predictable. Which means it can be automated away.

How Croydonians can keep their livelihoods? 

Rather than sticking your head in the sand and thinking that won’t happen to me, the first thing to do is get smart and appraise the situation. Look to the areas that will grow in this increasingly automated world: computer maintenance, software programming, project management, etc.

The next step is to then work out how you can best access training so as to be proficient in these skills.

Fortunately, for Croydonians, Croydon Tech City is committed to training and upskilling local people so that they can participate in present-day tech economy on your doorstep and the tech economy of the future.

So what are your options?

If you are a child or teen: Croydon Tech City has a dedicated programme called Future Tech City to service, support and encourage the take-up of computer programming and coding by as many young people as possible in Croydon to prepare them for the tech economy of the future and for their personal development. Teachers, educators, and parents can find out about Future Tech City here.

If you are an adult: Croydon Tech City runs a variety of free monthly courses put on by the community for the community, including coding, project management and startup business lessons. You can sign up to Croydon Tech City classes here.

In 2026, no-one will care about your MA from Birkbeck or your “portfolio of client work” in a world where you can be replaced by a Javascript loop that takes fifteen minutes to code. So, get prepared, get ahead – sign-up for Croydon Tech City’s education programmes now.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • lizsheppardjourno

    Hi Jonny – inspiring stuff :)

    I know that you’re right, and I give this exact message to my children in the many lectures they receive (and will one day remember with gratitude) on the value of future-proof skilling and the necessity of belonging to the information elite. (Anyone who knows them and doubts me may ask them).

    But the real hope in all this is much bigger: it will be the revolutionary realisation that we can no longer run the world on the sale of labour. This will in turn necessitate a revolution in education: a few years of learning to read, write and do something to keep you waged will no longer suffice for a world with no repetitive job to fill your days and no money to spend on stupefying consumption. A far longer and richer education will be required, and a different definition of what fulfilment looks like.

    This will bring down capitalism: it shocks me already how we tolerate the existence of a tiny bunch of super-rich, a disenfranchised underclass and an ever-expanding, ever-more-anxious middle sector who know their jobs are next to go, or next but one.Their security’s gone already.

    Ultimately we’ll have to do everything differently, and I’m delighted about it. It’s scary news (the transition from here to there will be extremely hard) but it’s very good news indeed.

    • Serena Alam

      Hi Jonny,

      As I was saying in my email to you just now, I’ve not yet had time to read the whole of this article yet. However I HAVE noticed that you’ve catered for both adult AND child audiences in it… and I really like the way you’ve made that clear in your last three paragraphs.

      S.

  • Serena Alam

    Hi Jonny,

    As I was saying in my email to you just now, I’ve not had time to read the whole of this article yet. However I HAVE noticed that you’ve catered for both adult AND child audiences in it… and I really like the way you’ve made that clear in your last three paragraphs.

    S.

  • Essential Skills

    Hi Jonny,

    This article is spot on! That’s why we think it is important to work with local sixth forms to get learners ready for the future labour market now. Our programmes run for 3 days and include trips to Fintech companies, coding workshops and the opportunity for students to gain UCAS points as part of the programme as well. Please see our website http://www.essential-skills.co.uk, follow us on Twitter @estp_training AND click the leaflet below for details on our programme.

  • Ray Ansel

    Hi Jonny – I think this article is a brilliant read, and offers an amazing insight into the future of employment.

    While employment in some sectors will decrease, highly skilled workers will be in large demand. The future is leading to automation, but even that still needs to be maintained. One way to beat this shift is to join the rapidly growing market of the freelance workforce.

    Outsourcing has become big business in recent years, with companies wanting improved value to customer experience; this stemming from greater public demand for ethical practices, transparency and consumer engagement. Freelancing can help to supply this demand by delivering improved quality, speed or price to the product or service, providing an enhanced customer experience.

    Freelancing is a lucrative market, but with international freelancers in nations such as India or the Philippines, competition is fierce. There is a large trend toward people becoming self-employed, and this is set to continue. Benefits associated with freelancing include improved pay, job satisfaction and work-life balance. We at Croyative (www.croyative.co.uk) believe in supporting the UK’s young creatives and technology geniuses in taking their first steps into freelancing, as well as enabling affordable access to SMEs. Croyative offer freelancers the opportunities they need to develop their portfolios and gain the experience and knowledge they need to grow. We hope to provide a positive influence on the UK’s small business sector and on youth employment.

    Ultimately, this next digital wave is set to disrupt all sectors and while some choose to ignore it, it may be wiser to equip ourselves with the skills and knowledge to endure the challenges that we are inevitably about to face.

  • Susan Oliver

    Sorry Jonny, I ain’t buyin’ it.

    I’m happy for you to cheerlead for CTT and be evangelical about computers but I’m not happy when you do it by using fear tactics. You’re basically trying to whip us into action by making us afraid of the future and of lack.

    To argue the rather nebulous idea that computers are taking over is to create a monster that doesn’t exist. You’re creating a fearful scenario which we need to defend ourselves against – lo and behold – by taking one of your classes.

    I want to remind you that fear is the opposite of love which Jesus taught us to put our faith in.

    Please try to cultivate interest in CTT by using your considerable networks, power (Mr 37!), charm, wit, charisma, rugged good-looks, etc. In these are where your influence lies, not in your ability to create nightmares in people’s imaginations.

    • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

      Thank you for the correction, Susan – I love how you always bring me back to Jesus (which is exactly how it should be! :)

      My hope is that my fear-mongering here *is* an act of love as I genuinely want people to be prepared for what is a fearful future reality that could very well happen. I don’t want them to be scared, I want them to be prepared.

      To wit, I’ll point you to one of my favourite verses from Proverbs: “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty” :)

  • Dan Elwick

    Hi Jonny,

    This is a great article – you make some very valid points about technology and the future of employment!

    For those who want to start early, Code Club is a network of clubs for 9-11 year olds to learn the basics of computer programming free of charge at their local school, library or community centre. There is more information on https://www.codeclub.org.uk/ and we will be at the next Future Tech City meetup on 23 February http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ctcs-future-tech-city-february-2016-tickets-19684088639?aff=erellivmlt.

  • http://www.thegreenstoryteller.com Charles Barber

    Ah, if only I had the same crystal ball as Jonny or Liz. Alas my prediction is much more bleak. While I completely agree that it’s important, especially for the young to understand the new technology so that they may find it easier to get jobs, it’s perhaps equally or more important that they should learn how to grow plants (and not get a robot to do it for them). Although I’m sure that new technology might help us cope better with the ecological crisis that seems to be looming ever closer, it will only ever be part of the solution. If we don’t halt the decline in bee numbers, the decline in biodiversity and the continued build up of greenhouse gases, my fear is that our grandchildren may have even more serious things to worry about, than how to get a job. Of course this doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t get more tech-savvy, but for me it does suggest that technology should be a part of a much more rounded education. Alas, any objective scientist looking at our damaged eco-system could come to a simple conclusion of how to solve many of our planet’s ills – namely the complete eradication of its most dangerous invasive species. I refer, of course to Homo sapiens. Technology is wonderful but unless we can change ourselves and make use of it, to solve so many of the problems that we ourselves have created, we will be like clever, well-equipped super-apes, unable to see the floods or drought, that will shortly envelop us .