Written by Kristine Vergara for UTS Business Society.
This article focuses on the opportunity and challenges of automation in the Australian workforce.
A CSIRO Data61 and Safe Work Australia ‘Workplace Safety Futures’ Report states that “the cost of advanced AI, sensory systems and robotics is declining while the capability of these systems continues to improve”. As these technologies become more affordable, many more businesses will start experimenting with AI and robotics and look for ways these technologies can enhance product and service offerings and provide efficiencies for businesses.
Many people still see automation as a pipe dream, however estimates suggest that the number of jobs that may be replaced by robotics and AI over the next decade range from 9 to 43 percent. Robotics and AI have been employed in many service businesses spanning healthcare, customer service, and even the legal industry. An example of a law firm actively engaging in innovation is Gilbert + Tobin, with their innovation team ‘developing a patented series of automated searches that finds litigation that is current across a variety of courts. It means that a manual task that could take up to four hours has now been cut to ten minutes. Efficiency is a pervasive issue across any industry and involves opening your mind to completing work in a different way by employing technology to help get it done quicker.
Caryn Sandler, Chief Knowledge and Information Officer of Gilbert + Tobin states that ‘low hanging fruit such as manual tasks will be automated, and high-value work that you want lawyers will be doing will remain as such’. Therefore, not all jobs will be automated and replaced entirely. Gilbert + Tobin’s innovation team work with practicing lawyers to provide technology solutions for any pain points in their workflow. Communication is key with emerging roles interfacing other industries with technology. Businesses will still require people who have an understanding of the work to be completed to assist in creating viable solutions for clients. The growing need of technology improvements for businesses has increased demand for those with a technological skillset. Claudia Barriga-Larriviere, Head of People at start-up accelerator BlueChilli suggests that ‘the lack of local graduates is putting a strain on businesses looking for technology talent and product managers have become the “unicorns” of tech talent’. Product management could be a potential pivot for professionals in various industries to upskill in technology. A recent report by the Australian Computer Society and Deloitte has stated that ‘an extra 200,000 technology workers will be needed in the next five years if the country is going to be world leader in the digital economy’.
In the meantime, the automation trend will see many more workers at all levels working within proximity to automation and will require certain skills so that they understand how automation and robots affect business tasks and processes. Gilbert+ Tobin have pre-empted this human-robot collaboration by providing coding courses to staff as further training. Initiatives such as this will bridge the gap as emerging technologies continue to disrupt various industries.
Automation is on the way and it will be interesting to see how specific businesses and the Australian economy as a whole embraces this change.
 Horton J, Cameron A, Devaraj D, Hanson RT, Hajkowicz SA (2018) Workplace Safety Futures: The impact of emerging technologies and platforms on work health and safety and workers’ compensation over the next 20 years. CSIRO, Canberra.
 Frey CB, Osborne MA. 2013. The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation. Oxford; Arntz M, Gregory T, Zierhan U. 2016. The Risk of Automation for Jobs in OECD Countries: A Comparative Analysis. Paris: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development