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Report calls for "transformation of the entire workforce"

Report calls for

Monday 27 July 2020

Report calls for "transformation of the entire workforce"

30% of all jobs are at risk of being replaced by artificial intelligence by 2035, according to a private sector report - however thousands of new jobs can be created in the Channel Islands in the next 15 years if the islands act now.

The report by PwC calls for the transformation of the entire workforce through the training of all employees in digital technology skills, a development described as ‘a once in a generation opportunity’ for the Channel Islands.

However, there is a warning in the same report that thousands of existing jobs could be at risk between now and 2035 through the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation if no action is taken.   

The paper further points out that the Covid-19 pandemic has sharpened the issues around the use of technology and made it even more of an imperative that action is taken. 

Nick Vermeulen, the Partner leading on Innovation and Technology at PwC Channel Islands, said that without immediate action, jobs will be lost forever. 

"If governments, businesses and educators don’t take decisive action now, the jobs that are furloughed or lost in the downturn may never return," he said.

"Posts at risk in five or ten years’ time could disappear much sooner, as restructuring and cost saving accelerate in the wake of the pandemic.

"But with the right skills, agility and readiness to embrace change, the Channel Islands can create thousands of new jobs to make up for the ones that will be lost. We can attract new businesses with new ways of working, improve the quality and value of the work we do, make it more fulfilling and ultimately bolster the long-term competitiveness and prosperity of our islands."

The report, which has been shared with representatives of the governments of both Islands, delivers a series of key findings:

  • 30% of jobs are at risk from automation and AI across the Channel Islands between now and 2035, equating to over 27,000 jobs

  • The Finance Sector will be the most impacted with the crunch period between 2025-30. The younger generation and the low paid/low skilled will also be the most impacted.

  • Covid-19 has accelerated the timetable as businesses have rushed to adopt technology to survive, many jobs will be impacted sooner than the analysis indicates

  • Across the three waves of technology change between now and 2035, as many new jobs can be created as those lost

  • There will be a mismatch between the jobs needed and the availability of skills in the Channel Islands to do those jobs unless upskilling is started now.

The report recommends the creation of a taskforce to consider a mass digital upskilling plan for Guernsey and Jersey. 

Mr Vermeulen said the cost of upskilling is estimated to be six times lower than the ultimate economic cost of redundancies, periods out of work and people needing to retrain before finding a new job. 

"Positioning the Channel Islands as a digital talent hub could be a game changer and a great way to build back better post pandemic, investing in our workforce for the future," he said. "Furthermore, the effectiveness of remote working during the current crisis has illustrated how in future, many islanders may find they can live in the Channel Islands and actually work for a business elsewhere in the world, especially so if they are equipped with cutting edge digital skills."

Chief Strategy Officer at PwC Channel Islands, Leyla Yildirim, said the next few years will be 'make or break' for the Bailiwick. 

"While the pressure for change was building, Covid-19 has made workforce upskilling a make or break for our islands," she said. "If we take decisive action now, we can secure our future as a focus for talent, investment and innovation. If we don’t, the skills gap could get worse, we risk being competitively sidelined and perhaps most damaging of all, unemployment could become a permanent feature affecting people’s long-term future."

Recommendations included in the report are:

  • Fiscal stimulus to support the jobs market and fund an investment led recovery

  • Strategic planning to help employers identify the emerging skills of the future and collaboration with educators to make them part of the curricula

  • A business led approach to create quality work experience, continued education, jobs and apprenticeships for young people

  • A strategic commitment to lifelong learning at a government level, supported by industries, to invest in the skills of the future.

How did PwC arrive at the 30% figure?

" We applied a PwC model, supported by OECD data, which analyses the breakdown of common jobs by tasks and then identifies which of these tasks, and therefore the percentage of roles, could be automated through improvements in technology. We then used the latest population projections from both islands’ governments to forecast the workforce make up over the coming decade."

Pictured top: Nick Vermeulen from PwC.

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