Employer reliance on automation and AI speeds up

Office and administrative jobs are among those targeted for automation.

The COVID-19 crisis has sped up employers’ reliance on automation and artificial intelligence.

Instead of the previous projection of 2030, a report by the Southern Regional Education Board now believes that 30% of work activities in the state could be automated by the end of 2025. That report, presented to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education late last week, notes that new job skills beyond high-school level will be mandatory for workers hoping to keep jobs that pay livable wages.

The industries that employ the most people are the ones most often targeted for automation. Those currently include food preparation and serving, sales and related services, production occupations, office and administrative, and transportation and materials moving services.

“Adults with the lowest levels of education are the most vulnerable to changes from automation,” said ACHE Executive Director Jim Purcell.

That may prove even more detrimental with fewer Alabama high school graduates entering higher education. ACHE data reports the college-going rate for the class of 2019 declined to 58%, the lowest percentage of high school graduates going into higher education over the past five years.

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“We must equip and educate our citizens with the skills necessary to meet the supply and demand of the workplace,” said ACHE Chairman and Dothan businessman Charles Buntin. “Our state’s economic success is dependent on collaborative efforts by our higher education system to help prepare students for a rapidly-changing 21st century world of work.”

ACHE commissioners approved the following new academic programs and post-implementation conditions for the following:

  • Shelton State Community College’s associate of applied science in medical laboratory technician program.
  • Troy University’s Bachelor of Science in business administration in data analytics
  • University of North Alabama’s Bachelor of Business Administration in data analytics and a Master of Science in instructional technology and design
  • Athens State University’s Bachelor of Science in education in elementary education and English for speakers of other languages, Master of Science in strategic human resource management and Bachelor of Science in nursing
  • Auburn University’s Master of Science in applied behavior analysis, Master of Development practice in development practice, Master of Science in supply chain management
  • University of South Alabama’s Doctor of Philosophy in chemical and biomolecular engineering and the establishment of a new unit of instruction — School of Marine and Environmental Sciences
  • University of North Alabama’s request to amend post-implementation conditions of its bachelor of arts/bachelor of science in earth systems sustainability and its master of arts in public history.

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