How Predictable is Your Work?

The truth about job security in the future

By Alex Ellison



If you spend a lot of time doing predictable, physical work tasks in the accommodation and food services sector, you might want to diversify your skills and think about what transferable skills you have that could land you a new job in the next few years. Automation might get the better of you. On the other hand, if your work involves a good amount of managerial taskscreativity, novelty, expertise, or if you work in education, you’re probably in a good spot and you will likely have a fighting chance against the robots.

The interesting thing about automation, is that unlike the flu epidemic, which does not discriminate (especially this year), automation seems to discriminate based on the type of work you do. However, unlike some might assume, automation likely will not wipe out entire work sectors; rather, this imminent force will replace certain types of work tasks within a variety of sectors. In preparing for automation, we have to avoid blanket statements that name an entire sector as good or bad.

In the graph above, (another version of this graph can be found here), you can see that the accommodation and food services sector has a lot of people spending a lot of time doing predictable tasks. So it seems that it will be hard hit. However, experts and managers in that sector whose work is not predictable, meaning there are regularly new problems to solve and fires to put out daily, are pretty shielded from the threat of automation.

Look at education services. The bulk of the time spent in that sector is on tasks that involve expertise or management, meaning as a whole, that sector is pretty protected. A small amount of work in that sector is spent on manual labor, like data entry, and those job roles will likely be replaced by automation.

What does all of this mean for kids in school right now? What work will already be automated by the time they graduate high school or college? We ought to be preparing young people for the types of skills needed to be irreplacable; we ought to be preparing them for the unpredictable.

Alex Ellison is a college planner, education consultant, and co-founder at MENTEE. She will be a blogger at the Annual MPSA (Midwest Political Science Association) Conference in Chicago, IL. You can learn more about the conference and schedule here. Ellison will be attending Policies for Economically Vulnerable Populations and Making of Education Policy sessions. Read more from Alex Ellison on Medium