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What are the manufacturing jobs of the future?

By: Grant King, IndustrySearch Writer
18 November, 2015

In an earlier article we discussed whether your next manufacturing employee should be a robot.

The answer to that was pretty much yes, not overly good news for Australian factory workers. Yet while robots will fill vastly more situations vacant in the future of manufacturing, a variety of roles will still be available for us humans. So what are the manufacturing jobs of the future? Let's go job hunting.

You're applying for which job?

As Ray Kurzweil, renowned futurist and director of engineering at Google once said: "You can point to jobs that are going to go away from automation, but don't worry, we're going to invent new jobs." "What new jobs?" he was asked. "I don't know. They haven't been invented yet."  And that is kind of the case here. Automation and its long term impacts have yet to be realised as the whole process is still in its infancy. One thing's for certain, unskilled workers aren't going to like robots because they'll be the main casualties.

Robot minders apply here

It's good news for anyone with mechanical or engineering skills in the mid to high range. Programmers, process control workers, operators for computer-controlled tools and engineers to maintain and repair sophisticated machinery will all have significantly more manufacturing opportunities as automation kicks in. Semi-skilled and skilled jobs will largely be the way of the future for manufacturing while unskilled factory floor roles will move out as quickly as robots move in.

Cut off at the STEM

And that's a bit of a problem. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, or more specifically, skills within those categories, and right now Australia has a serious shortage. Industry experts are now calling for a greater STEM focus in schools to beef up the numbers and meet manufacturing job demands in coming decades. The bulk of these new manufacturing recruits will also need to be digitally savvy as computers and robots begin to run the show.

It's somewhat ironic that manufacturing begins with 'man' as the unskilled stalwarts of the industry's past, be they men or women, will play a much smaller role in its future. And while there's no substitute for progress, that's a real shame.

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