Essex man decides to reskill because of concerns he will lose his job to automation

Daniel Rees, a tube driver reskilling through the OU. Picture: Daniel Rees

Daniel Rees, a tube driver reskilling through the OU. Picture: Daniel Rees - Credit: Archant

As the fourth industrial revolution commences and more and more jobs become replaced by machines, a tube driver from Essex, Daniel Rees, decided it was time to reskill now, in the belief that his own job will soon become obsolete.

An empty train on the Victoria Line platform at King's Cross station

An empty train on the Victoria Line platform at King's Cross station - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Mr Rees is a 32 year old from near Chelmsford who works as a full-time tube driver at Transport for London (TFL).

But when he’s not train-driving, Mr Rees is currently studying through The Open University (OU) towards a BA (Hons) degree in Law, and one day hopes to embark on a new career as a lawyer.

“Although it’s manual at the moment, in 10 to 15 years there might not be a need for drivers and my job may not exist as trains become more autonomous,” he explained. “I therefore knew that I needed to do something to future proof my career and progress into something that I really wanted to do.”

Mr Rees currently features in a social media campaign, which form part of the OU’s new Open Diaries campaign lifting the lid on what it’s like to study with the OU. He said “I find the OU beneficial because there are not that many institutions where you can study law through distance learning. It allows me to be completely flexible and I can even volunteer one day a week for an advice charity, too. It’s really nice being able to help people and it’s also great practice for someone wanting to pursue a career in law.”

But Mr Rees might have less to fear from automation than he thinks.

A report released this week from the World Economic Forum has suggested that robots will displace 75 million jobs globally by 2022 but create 133 million new ones - a “net positive”.

Most Read

It said advances in computing would “vastly improve” the productivity of existing jobs and lead to many new ones in the coming years.

As a result we would see more data analysts, software developers and social media specialists, as well as job roles based on “distinctively human traits” such as customer service workers and teachers.

However, the think tank said the gains would come amid “significant disruption” as some roles become “increasingly redundant”.

It sees robots swiftly replacing positions in accounting firms, factories and post offices, as well as secretarial roles and cashier work.

Amid this “significant shift” workers would need to be retrained to update their skills, it said.

And Mr Rees might not have to worry too much about his day job, as the UK rail work is still a long way off from being fully automated. In 2014, an internal TfL document revealed driverless trains were unlikely to be in operation on the Underground until 2030, and earlier this year, London Mayor Sadiq Khan branded the prospect of driverless trains “madness.”

The Institute of Directors (IoD) in the East of England recently held a panel debate entitled ‘We Should Fear Advances in AI –Discuss” which was attended by 94 representatives from local businesses.

Regional director Simone Robinson said that the overwhelming view from IoD members in attendance was that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will benefit the entire community and should not be feared.

“There is no doubt that AI is going to have a dramatic impact on the employment landscape and the distribution of labour across the wider economy,” she said. “However, IoD members firmly believe that people will remain at the heart of business.

“We are encouraging our members, all of whom are business leaders, to play an active role in upskilling and reskilling workers where AI disrupts.

“The education sector will also need to address the changing needs of adult learners as there will no doubt be a requirement for new skill acquisition within the next decade.

“The IoD will continue to survey our members to find out where and how AI is impacting their organisations.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter