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Contrary to concerns that technological advancements are hurting the job market, researchers have demonstrated that the advantages provided by technology can drive job growth. At a basic level, career opportunities in IT abound, but technology offers benefits for workers in other roles, as well. As with any shift in business operations, technological innovations will require the workforce to adapt to changing conditions, but when workers are empowered with the right skills and training, increased productivity and new opportunities have the potential to revitalize the economy.
Increased productivity can fuel job growth
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) "Are Robots Taking Our Jobs, or Making Them?" report analyzed the impact of information technology and machines on the economy, with a mind to assess the validity of concerns that technological advancements contribute to rising unemployment. Throughout history, people have blamed automation when the economy experiences a recession, the source noted, but time and again such fears have proved unfounded. Instead, the workforce adapts to changing opportunities and processes, learning to work in different ways—but working nonetheless.
The report acknowledged that technological advancements such as automated manufacturing tools do have an immediate impact on workers in those fields, often resulting in layoffs as companies streamline their operations. However, technological innovation creates immediate IT job opportunities and can fuel long-term job growth and economic development. According to the report, this occurs in two general ways: Companies can increase their productivity, reduce their costs, inspire additional demand and grow; or economies can shift into higher-value industries that offer better paying jobs and provide more advanced products and services. Greater profitability also fuels job growth by giving employees more disposable income, enabling them to purchase additional goods and services, which creates greater demand for workers in those industries, the report added.
Transitioning to higher-tech industries can revitalize an economic community. That's the idea behind President Obama's tech hubs, which he announced during his State of the Union address. According to Politico, Pittsburgh is a success story in this regard. The source explained that robots and other technology helped prevent the city from experiencing an economic downfall like Detroit's.
Opportunities in STEM—and beyond
As technology becomes increasingly advanced and embedded in various industries, it's clear that the demand for IT experts has become pressing. From information security to Big Data analytics, companies need professionals who can manage their IT network services, keep their resources safe and advise them on implementing new tools. Recent research by Burning Glass Technologies has shown that the demand for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals is even higher than anticipated, according to US News. Growing concerns over security breaches have also fueled demand for experts. The Washington Post reported that the federal government, for example, plans to increase its cybersecurity staff in 2014.
In addition to IT careers, the importance of technology in the modern workplace means that people in many roles will need to have greater understanding of IT resources. This will likely fuel more demand for IT training, especially as technology transforms the types of jobs available for workers. Part of the global deficit in IT skills is caused by a lack of technological training for workers in non-IT roles, American News Report explained. To address this issue, companies may need to hire additional staff to train their employees or turn to training and certification classes to improve the abilities of their workforce.
"Businesspeople today need technology skills—plain and simple," said Andrew Ford of Global Knowledge, according to the news source. "Literally, every project and every job role has a technology component. Whether you are in project management, business analysis or any business role, you need to understand that technology not only supports, but it influences how your organization functions."
The bottom line is that technology will continue to drive productivity and change business operations. Instead of hurting the job market, these transitions can provide exciting opportunities and economic growth. And resisting technological innovation for the sake of job preservation could be detrimental in the long term: ITIF president Robert Atkinson told the National Economists Club that Europeans tend to avoid enhancing productivity with technology, Bloomberg Law reported, and this is harming their long-term economic development.