Throughout history, dire warnings have been issued about how new technology will throw workers onto the scrap heap. Of course, some occupations have shrunk in size or disappeared, but the mass joblessness some thought computers would bring about has not come to pass.
One example of this is Jeremy Rifkin’s prediction, in his 1995 book, The End of Work, that in the space of five short years ‘millions of new entrants into the workforce will find themselves without jobs, many victims of a technology revolution that is fast replacing human beings with machines in virtually every sector and industry of the global economy.’ This has certainly not proved true for the UK, where unemployment has fallen.
Technology has undoubtedly reduced jobs in manufacturing, but, equally, there has been an expansion in service-based and knowledge work.
As Professor Richard Scase points out, more people now work in Indian restaurants than in shipbuilding, steel manufacturing and in coal mining combined and there are currently three times as many public relations consultants as coal miners. Based on current trends, professional occupations will continue to grow with a related decline in skilled and semi-skilled manual jobs.
Like all other occupations, chartered accountants face challenges posed by the development of artificial intelligence. But our future is bright, provided we adapt and continuously update our skills and knowledge and utilise advances in new technology to add value to the businesses we advise.
If artificial intelligence means an end to routine number-crunching and automates other mundane tasks, that can only free up our profession to specialise in what we do best, namely offering strategic advice that fuels business growth in enterprises of all sizes, from the global giant to the sole trader.
In developing our qualification, the new ACA, we have recognised the need for our members to have interpersonal skills and people management expertise, and the ability to solve real-life business problems.
Adaptability and creativity will be key to surviving and thriving in the new economy. The beauty of the ACA is that it provides members with a solid foundation in financial matters and an in-depth understanding of the real drivers of business value.
Come what may, CAs who qualify with us will be well equipped to harness new technology to benefit the businesses they work in and advise, leading to the creation of new jobs and a more prosperous Britain.