The Robotics impact on jobs in UK Cities will be an outcome of industry 4. The January publication from the Centre for Cities at first appears gloomy.  Industry 4 is also called the Fourth Industrial Revolution 

It does make stark reading to have reinforced from other sources like The Bank of England studies and Morgan McKinsey Consultants and reports that:

  • 1 in 5 jobs in the UK to be displaced by 2030
  • Jobs in UK Cities are worst affected
  • 3.6 million jobs will be replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics
  • 20.2% of city work forces will be affected.

Northern and Midlands cities are the most exposed with 23% of jobs affected.

Most at risk are jobs in:

  • Retail
  • Customer Services
  • Warehousing

The report gives a real warning to Central Government and local authorities that they must “act now to prepare people and places for the changing times ahead”

  • Generally, those jobs that are made up of routine tasks are at a greater risk of decline, whereas those occupations requiring interpersonal and cognitive skills are well placed to grow.
  • Overall, one in five jobs in cities across Great Britain is in an occupation that is very likely to shrink. This amounts to approximately 3.6 million jobs, or 20.2 per cent of the current workforce in cities.
  • In places like Mansfield, Sunderland, Wakefield and Stoke almost 30 per cent of the current workforce is in an occupation very likely to shrink by 2030. This contrasts with cities such as Cambridge and Oxford where less than 15 per cent of jobs are at risk.

As a Liverpool lad and a Midlands based company, it is most worrying to me that Jobs in UK Cities worst affected are those  locally. Places like Telford at 25% predicted job losses and Stoke is even worse at 28%. Coventry set to lose 50,000 jobs. The UK average is 21% losses by 2030.

For Telford who have an estimated 82,700 people in employment for the year up to June 2017. That is 20,675+ jobs which may be lost. That's over THREE times the capacity of New Bucks Head and twice the New Meadow Stadium in Shrewsbury. Standing shoulder to shoulder this amount of people would take up more that 4,000 square meters. Whichever way you look at this number, its important to remember, they are real people, with real families and real mortgages and rents to pay. They will need help to get jobs in the new economy.

Whilst automation and AI (Artificial  Intelligence)  and the internet will bring about opportunities for some with home-working, the skills needed today are lacking. Skills like: creativity; problem solving; continuous learning and flexibility are absent in the current roles and jobs which are to be lost. People who want jobs in the next ten years will need to re-train. Who will provide that training? The companies? The local authorities?

People who can problem solve and learn news skills will gain new (as-yet unthought of) jobs.

However, as CE for Centre for Cities has said “there is a real risk that many places and people will lose out”

In November 2017, McKinsey reported that worldwide there cold be 700 million displaced from their jobs by 2030.

Price Coopers Waterhouse (PWC) have published their study and state that robotics could take up to 30% of UK jobs by 2030

The Bank of England estimates upwards of 15 million jobs are at risk from automation and AI in the UK alone.

On the flip side, the Worldwide Economic Forum states that these displaced people can “easily” be employed IF they retrain. There is the added bonus that retraining and gaining the new skills required will gain higher wages.

Centre for Cities Action Points/ Suggestions to retain Jobs in UK Cities

  • For struggling cities in particular, policy needs to create the conditions that support the development of knowledge, and the use and exchange of it. A key element of this will be to provide their residents with the skills they need to be successful in a labour market that is likely to be ever more dominated by non-routine work.
  • Policymakers should also prepare the workforce of the future by giving younger generations entering the labour market the right set of skills and knowledge to succeed in the jobs of the future.
  • The current workforce should be given adequate resources to adjust to changes in the labour market.
  • Those least able to adapt need to be given adequate compensation for their job loss but should also be given retraining.

Jobs to go

Historically, the ATM effectively put paid to the job of the Bank Teller. This particular job roles life was only extended by the ageing population in the UK. Older people were unwilling to accept paying in and getting out cash by a machine. That’s not the case with the current generations. 20 and 30 somethings are quite happy to accept and use automated checkout at the supermarket. You will see more of these.

Amazon has opened a corner store only this year (January 2018) where customers can pick up their groceries and just walk out without having to queue up and pay at the checkout.

The company said shoppers at its Amazon Go store will have the cost of their purchases automatically billed to their Amazon Prime account. Sensors will track customers as they go about the store and record items they pick up.

The rise of  supermarkets has almost killed off the existence of Milk Float delivery. Albeit the recent announcement by this Conservative Government to move away from plastic packaging might alter that. Prompted in no small way by Sir David Attenborough presenting the BBC prrogram Blue Planet, the issue of plastic pollution globally in our seas might reverse the trend for pre-packed food and give home delivered bottled milk a new lease of life.

This last point demonstrates the power of direction and policy from Central an Local Government.

Is there anything to worry about?

The nature of work in todays' society in cities is vastly different to that of over a century ago when the second industrial revolution (the assembly line ( introduced by Henry Ford) was about to hit.

Back then in the urban workforce of 1911, Domestic Service made up 8% of the UK workforce.

Tasks performed by maids and butlers are now automated and made easier by machines like the washing machine for laundry, the vacuum cleaner for cleaning; the microwave for cooking; and the automatic central heating system – so no fires to light or ashes to lean away.

Farriers; Saddlers; Grooms; Stable boys; coachmen, all lost jobs with the replacement of horses by the internal combustion engine.

However, since that time, those able to re-train and take on monotonous jobs in the Second Industrial Revolution of the Production line found jobs in factories.

Since then in the Third Industrial Revolution, those able to retrain in telecoms and IT roles when Automation on the production line was introduced have done well.

Todays Technology

Today, your car is moving forward with AI. It is switching on and dipping your main headlamp beam. Vehicles ab automatically switch on your windscreen wipers. Car Sensors can warn you that you are straying across lanes. The government has announced is is backing the push for driver-less cars. The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill. was announced in October 2017. This technology market is set to be worth up to £50 billion to UK economy by 2035. Thus we have the oxymoron that we are creating jobs to make drivers redundant, but that is a good thing.

Today there are fewer Policemen stopping you speeding, which is mostly caught on un-manned automatic cameras, and in future, your car wont even speed, which is even better.

Still not convinced?. The next time you fly , ask yourself who is flying the aeroplane? It will invariably be on Autopilot for the greater part of your journey.

Cities whose economies are based on these latter industries like IT and who have investment in these future technologies will fare better than those which are not. These cities and companies are clustered in the South of England. Those cities whose economy is dependant upon the likes of warehousing will fare less well. So the ability to keep Jobs in UK Cities will suffer.

Are Warehousing companies worried?

Apart from its main package delivery service, United Parcel Service (UPS) gets an portion of its revenue from storing and shipping parts for manufacturers. If those customers were to switch to 3D printing their own parts, that business would face a drastic reduction.

UPS therefor opened its own 3D Printing Farm, so that instead of picking packing and sending parts for their clients they are Printing Packing and Sending those parts to protect their business from this disruptive technology.

UPS has chosen to get on board the 3D revolution, and since 2016 has been offering a service in which UPS will print out plastic parts—anything from nozzles to brackets to prototype soap dispensers or multifaceted moving parts—around the world and deliver them.

“3D printing is a great opportunity for us, but it’s also a threat,” Alan Amling, UPS vice president for corporate strategy, told Reuters.

How can Local Authorities help?

If Local Authorities Lobby Central Government for help, they can move away from simply  managing decline to a more positive influence of actually improving their economies.

Local Councils will need funds from Central Government to help manage this switch in economy and improve access to good quality schools which give the students of today (who are the workforce of tomorrow) the skills they will need. Skills like:

  • Coding
  • IT
  • Robotics
  • Creative Design
  • Additive Manufacture (AM) otherwise known as 3D Printing.

These Authorities will also need to give access to the current workforce to retrain for Lifelong Learning.

The seven year old of today is predicted to have 17 jobs by the age of 40. There is nothing more certain than change, and change is more rapid now than ever.

Have we not learned the lesson of pit closures since early 1984, when  the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher announced plans to close 20 coal pits. This led to the year-long miners' strike which ended in March 1985.  On 21 April 2017, Britain went a full day without using coal power to generate electricity for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, according to the National Grid.

The lessons were obvious that we need to manage that change in workforce.

Is AI and Robotics all just theory and prediction?

At Christmas 2017, many of us will have extended AI which is already in our lives. If you have a Smart Phone, you probably already ask Siri or on your Laptop Cortana to do something for you, even if it just a spell check.

You may have now been given or if you are a gadget type purchased for yourself Amazon Echo which is  is a hands-free speaker you control with your voice. Echo connects to the Alexa Voice Service to play music, make calls, send and receive messages, provide information, news, sports scores, weather, and more, instantly. Companies like  Apple and Google have variants and are investing heavily in AI.

For advanced examples: checkout Sophia from Hanson robotics  to see how far this merge of AI and Robotics has gone.

Take look at Boston Dynamics to see how Robots have moved away from 2 legs like their robot “Atlas”  onto 4 legs with another variation “Spot2”    and now wheels and legs

combined with the Robot “Handle”  to create new and faster robots which can go anywhere and be packhorses and warehousemen.  These robots can run, and jump and are very very fast. The robots from Boston Dynamics are very far removed from a robotic arm in a factory.

Something needs to change.

The Digital Revolution (a report by Lord Baker),  recommends that schools have voucher schemes to invest in the technology they will need. Technology to teach about coding, robotics and AM (Additive manufacture aka 3D printing). This is how the BBC micro desktop computer got into our schools.

Unfettered schools from the manacles of waterfall education; exam results driven systems and league tables. The jobs students parents do, will not be around in 10 years.

We need to teach students how to free-think, how to be able to cope with change and continuous learning.

We need to move away from teaching students to pass exams upon exams just to get degrees.  Degrees are not the outcome for society. A successful and rewarding career is a good outcome for society. The knowledge learned in a 4-year course invested in a degree is redundant before the examination is taken. Only the learning process is of value. Fact retention is less important than the ability to use AI.

I saw a teacher reprimand a student recently for using a smart phone to  ask google the answer to a problem. There is a time to think and there is a time to gather information and possible solutions. Todays' challenges give us less of a reason to specialise knowledge by committing facts to memory. Let students use Robotics and AI. Teach them how.

Are still Luddites around

Luddites would be shouting by now: "yes- but what if we dont produce electricity in the future - where will we be then?".  Mans ability to overcome obstacles is extraordinary. As we journey to Mars and beyond, we whould not be clinging to the past and old ways of manufacture.

For Cities to survive, we need to help students and workers of today how to train or retrain to get jobs in UK cities.

Problem solving and the ability to use technology to overcome these problems is vital. Only free-thinking can surmount a problem. It is good to experience failure. Failure and iteration is the only road to success.

Wake up world. Robotics is here and how. Wake up UK. Robotics and AI in the 4th Industrial Revolution (industry 4) is here and now, not the future.


The UK Government centrally and locally needs to wake up. We all need to stop sleep-walking into the future, because it has already overtaken us. On some fronts it appears active, on others totally inert.

Schools need direction. Without it, they carry on doing what they have always done. As a business trainer advised: “if you always do what you’ve always done.. you will always get what you always had”