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Channel Islands should aim to be thriving hub for digital workers

16 July, 2020

Thousands of new jobs can be created in the Channel Islands in the next 15 years if governments, business and educators work together to champion digital technology, according to a new report from PwC in the Channel Islands.

The report calls for the transformation of the entire workforce – not just reliance on a few tech specialists - through the training of all employees in digital technology skills, a development viewed as ‘a once in a generation opportunity’ for the Channel Islands.

However, there is a warning in the same report that thousands of existing jobs could be at risk between now and 2035 through the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation if no action is taken. The underlying threat comes from technology which is able to perform more and more complex tasks and even make decisions that businesses currently pay people to do. The paper further points out that the COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened the issues around the use of technology and made it even more of an imperative that action is taken Nick Vermeulen, the Partner leading on Innovation and Technology at PwC Channel Islands, commented:

‘If governments, businesses and educators don’t take decisive action now, the jobs that are furloughed or lost in the downturn may never return. Posts at risk in five or ten years’ time could disappear much sooner, as restructuring and cost saving accelerate in the wake of the pandemic.’

‘But with the right skills, agility and readiness to embrace change, the Channel Islands can create thousands of new jobs to make up for the ones that will be lost. We can attract new businesses with new ways of working, improve the quality and value of the work we do, make it more fulfilling and ultimately bolster the long-term competitiveness and prosperity of our Islands.’

The report, which has been shared with representatives of the governments of both Islands, delivers a series of key findings:
  • 30%* of jobs are at risk from automation and AI across the Channel Islands between now and 2035, equating to over 27,000 jobs
  • The Finance Sector will be the most impacted with the crunch period between 2025-30. The younger generation and the low paid/low skilled will also be the most impacted.
  • COVID-19 has accelerated the timetable as businesses have rushed to adopt technology to survive, many jobs will be impacted sooner than the analysis indicates
  • Across the three waves of technology change between now and 2035, as many new jobs can be created as those lost
  • However there will be a mismatch between the jobs needed and the availability of skills in the Channel Islands to do those jobs unless upskilling is started now.

Nick Vermeulen added:

‘We set out in the report the key steps required of governments, business and education to respond and position us well for the future of work. Positioning the Channel Islands as a digital talent hub could be a game changer and a great way to build back better post pandemic, investing in our workforce for the future.’

‘Furthermore, the effectiveness of remote working during the current crisis has illustrated how in future, many Islanders may find they can live in the Channel Islands and actually work for a business elsewhere in the world, especially so if they are equipped with cutting edge digital skills.’

The report recommends the creation of a taskforce to consider a mass digital upskilling plan for Guernsey and Jersey. The cost of upskilling is estimated to be six times lower than the ultimate economic cost of redundancies, periods out of work, needing to retrain whilst out of work before re-entering the workforce.

It also recognises that there have already been some positive efforts made towards digital upskilling with some excellent initiatives from Digital Jersey partnering with business, and Digital Greenhouse in Guernsey. However, the Islands now urgently need to ramp up both the scale and pace of change, bringing more parties together into a community-wide effort. Jersey's newly launched Fiscal Stimulus Fund's focus on skills and training is one example of an opportunity to be seized.

Recommendations included in the report are:
  • Fiscal stimulus to support the jobs market and fund an investment led recovery
  • Strategic planning to help employers identify the emerging skills of the future and collaboration with educators to make them part of the curricula
  • A business led approach to create quality work experience, continued education, jobs and apprenticeships for young people
  • A strategic commitment to lifelong learning at a government level, supported by industries, to invest in the skills of the future.

Chief Strategy Officer at PwC Channel Islands, Leyla Yildirim, commented:

‘While the pressure for change was building, COVID-19 has made workforce upskilling a make or break for our Islands. If we take decisive action now, we can secure our future as a focus for talent, investment and innovation. If we don’t, the skills gap could get worse, we risk being competitively sidelined and perhaps most damaging of all, unemployment could become a permanent feature affecting people’s long-term future.’

Leyla added:

‘PwC has invested in a global ‘New World New Skills’ programme and skills development is well underway locally. For example, here in the Channel Islands we are investing over 20,000 staff hours for evaluation, training and interactive digital content throughout the summer and we have also rolled out a digital fitness App, which assesses each person’s baseline digital capabilities and then creates a tailored plan for skills development and application.’

* How we arrive at 30% - We applied a PwC model, supported by OECD data, which analyses the breakdown of common jobs by tasks and then identifies which of these tasks, and therefore the percentage of roles, could be automated through improvements in technology. We then used the latest population projections from both islands’ governments to forecast the workforce make up over the coming decade.

Contact us

Abigail McDermott

Abigail McDermott

Head of Marketing, PwC Channel Islands

Tel: +44 7700 838353

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