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  • Impact of automation focus of annual WIB meeting

    Dec 19, 2018 | Read More News
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    Pima County Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard Elías learned at the Dec. 14 meeting of the Workforce Investment Board that his job is safe. Of all the occupations in danger of being automated in coming years, according to a report by the University of Arizona, legislators are at the lowest risk of being replaced by machines.

    That should be good news for Elías and the more than 250 people who gathered for the annual year-end meeting of the Workforce Investment Board. They were there to hear a presentation on “Impacts of Automation on Pima County Employment” by George Hammond, director of the Economic and Business Research Center at the UA’s Eller College of Management.

    Elías suggested that there’s nothing to fear from automation. For generations, his family ground the corn for their holiday tamales by hand, until they realized they could do the job more quickly with a molino, under his nana’s watchful eyes.
    George Hammond
    Hammond’s report noted that 154,000 jobs in Pima County were at high risk of being replaced by automation. Low-risk fields include social services or management. Those at higher risk of seeing their jobs automated include food preparation workers and other occupations at lower skill levels.

    “Skills are the key,” Hammond said. “We will work with machines, not for them.”

    He reminded the audience that automation drives productivity and growth and ultimately will lead to higher wages and more demand for all industries. 

    But automation has brought uncertainty for millennia, he noted, even back in the 16th century when machines threatened English knitters. The queen stepped in to protect their jobs.

    “Will we do something similar?” he asked. “Will we allow driverless cars?”

    Hammond’s report also contained some predictions, recommendations and lots of numbers. Among them:
    • Job growth this past year was the fastest we’ve seen since 2012.
    • Most of the new jobs to be added to the economy in the next 30 years will be in healthcare and education.
    • Pima County is below the national average in educational attainment. And while a four-year degree isn’t for everyone, Hammond said, increasing education levels is the best way to raise wages.
    The WIB meeting also offered a chance to honor the outstanding employer and youth in Pima County. Daryl Koeppel from the Jim Click Automotive Group won the Outstanding Employer Award for the company’s longstanding partnership with local schools in training and hiring students. In fact, in just one year the company hired 23 students from Sunnyside High School and Andrada High School, even paying for their certifications through Pima Community College.

    Patrick Robles, a student at Sunnyside High School, won the Outstanding Youth Award. The current student body president at Sunnyside, Robles spent his summer as an intern in District 2 Supervisor Ramón Valadez’s office. 

    Robles researched ways the supervisor could extend his outreach through social media, including starting a weekly Facebook Live broadcast. After he graduates in May 2019, Robles plans to study public policy and management at the University of Arizona, making him the first member of his family to attend a university. He plans on a career in politics. 

    The Pima County Workforce Investment Board is appointed by the Pima County Board of Supervisors to provide recommendations on local workforce policy and oversight of the Pima County One-Stop Career Center. The board includes representatives of local businesses, nonprofits and educational institutions.