Automation in Colorado: Preparing for the Future of Work

Many futurists, economists, and high-tech business leaders predict there will be fewer jobs in the future thanks to automation. They say robots and other machines will be able to do everything humans can do, only better. Concerns about machines putting people out of work aren’t new. Historically, automation has eliminated some jobs, but it’s also credited with increased productivity, improved performance, and lower costs of products or services. Over the years, automation has increased demand, stimulated economic growth, and resulted in more overall jobs.

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However, current advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics could mean workers will be replaced across all industries at roughly the same time, not just in specific jobs as in the past. Workers will have to do more than change industries to find work; they will have to develop new skills. This represents change on a previously unseen scale.

What Does Automation Mean for Colorado?

Through original analysis, the Bell has identified occupations in Colorado judged to be at high risk to automation. This produced a list of 307 occupations that could have all or part of their functions automated. We then ranked the occupations based on the number of Colorado employees in each occupation. A total of 1.1 million Coloradans, or 41 percent of the total workforce, are working in occupations judged as high risk of being automated.

We then pinpointed occupations judged to have a 90 percent or higher probability of being automated. This produced a list of 15 occupations, totaling 477,000 Colorado workers. This doesn’t mean these jobs will be automated out of existence. Some may, but it’s likely many more will see tasks change and workers will need to learn new skills to evolve in their roles.

Related: Will Self-Driving Cars Kill Colorado Jobs?

To retain and better prepare these workers for the jobs of the future will require a focus on adult education, skill training, and help in making this retraining affordable. It will also likely mean an investment in work supports and other assistance, such as expanded unemployment insurance payments, to help workers as they transition into new jobs.

To learn more about what automation means for Colorado, please read the Bell’s Guide to Economic Mobility.