Forget robots. The real transformation occurring in nearly every workplace is the invasion of digital tools.
The usage of digital tools has increased, often dramatically, in 517 of 545 occupations since 2002, with a striking uptick in lots of lower-skilled occupations, according to a study released Wednesday by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
The report underscores the growing need for workers of all types to get digital skills and explains why many employers say they battle to fill jobs, including many that in the past required few digital skills. There is anxiety about automation displacing staff and perhaps, new digital tools allow one employee to do work previously done by some.
Those 545 occupations reflect 90 percent of all jobs in the economy. The report discovered that jobs with greater digital content have a tendency to pay more and so are increasingly concentrated in traditional high-tech centers like Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Austin, Texas.
The report used U.S. Division of Labor data to assign a ranking of zero to 100 to each occupation, reflecting the total amount that each needed usage of digital technology. The average rating for all occupations rose from 29 in 2002 to 46 in 2016, a 59 percent boost.
Some careers, especially higher-paying program occupations, have very long used digital tools and that continued to grow, the study found. At the same, many careers that had little if any digital content in 2002 have finally become far more likely to require those skills.
Warehouse workers who maneuver around freight saw their average score rise from 5 in 2002 to 25 in 2016. These staff now use handheld products to track inventories and products that audio an alarm if they try to put a package into the wrong truck.
The study found the digital score for roofers jumped from zero to 22, while for parking great deal attendants it rose from 3 to 26.
What we found is that the more digital a job is, on equilibrium the better the pay plus the less likelihood there is for total displacement of your job, said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings and co-author of the report.
Software programmers, the top-ranked occupation for digital abilities in both 2002 and 2016, saw their rating slip to 94 from 97. Muro speculates that as that field has matured, there are considerably more rolls for software programmers to work as managers of other program programmers, which mean doing fewer direct programming work.
At the other extreme are jobs like those done by Steve Engle, a 53-year-old factory employee at Cummins’ engine plant in Seymour, Indiana.
One of his tasks is to insert 56 bolts on the flywheel housing of each engine as it moves down the road and tighten the bolts in a certain sequence. He now runs on the tool that is connected to a screen, which manuals him to the right bolt and will not allow him to tighten the incorrect one. In addition, it knows accurately when the bolt is certainly tight enough and stops.
This tool won’t let me carry out it wrong, he said.