It was a fantastic, sunny day at Mercer HQ, overlooking the Tower of London and London Bridge, for the official launch of our report, Skills & Education in Robotics & AI (SERAI).
Mercer were terrific hosts – special thanks to Jon Lunn for welcoming us and helping us arrange the day. Jon kicked proceedings off, thanking everyone for coming and explaining why Mercer is so supportive of the work that we are doing at The University of Sheffield, Sheffield Robotics, and Cyberselves.
Professor Tony Prescott, Director of Sheffield Robotics, was next to speak, offering the contexts in which the report was commissioned. Anticipating the future of work, he explained that we need to get to grips with the new skills that will be required by workforces in the coming decades.
Richard Waterstone, the lead author of the report, then gave everyone a summary of his findings.
After refreshments, we were able to hear how others, from diverse sectors and in specific contexts, have addressed the challenges of the twenty-first-century economy, and how they have tried to use robotics, digital skills and other technologies to enhance our shared future.
Suryansh Chandra, from UK startup Automata, makers of Eva, the robotic arm, shared his vision for making robots cheaper and more accessible to a wider range of industrial uses, in order to improve productivity in the UK economy.
Dr. Patricia M Charlton, from the Open University, discussed the Institute of Coding, an exciting new collaboration between UK universities and businesses to create new learning experiences to improve the digital skills of the future and existing workforce.
And finally, Diane Buddery spoke to us about Skills for Care, and their attempts to bring technology to develop and enrich the workforce in adult social care.
You can see the Twitter highlights from the day in our Twitter Moment here.
After the formal talks, we enjoyed a lively discussion. Joysy John of Nesta wanted to explore further how we overcome the barriers to the acceptance of robots and AI. Social attitudes, and the fear of AI in particular, figured very highly in the audience’s ideas as to why there are such barriers, especially when we compare the UK with other cultures and economies, where such fears are much less prevalent. The solution, it was agreed, lay in more engagement, encouraging more and more people to get their hands on more and more various robots (our Cyberselves Roadshow perhaps being one good step in that direction).
Mat Walker from OhBot (we at Cyberselves are big fans of OhBot – check out their new Kickstarter project here) emphasised the importance of making available to children robots that are both engaging and entertaining on the one hand, but also usefully educational on the other. Creating a real engagement with technology can create a lifelong love of STEM subjects and of learning more generally.
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