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Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Robot Unions? The Changing Landscape of Michigan and America’s Workforce

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Image credit: Franck V.

Examining the future of automation. Plus, a conversation about how pay and stability of many jobs leaves much to be desired.

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There’s a lot of change in the job market and workforce here in Michigan and throughout the country. Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson looks at the role of artificial intelligence and automation in Michigan’s workforce and then digs into the deeper picture of unemployment numbers, which fail to show the quality and pay of jobs that people have across the country.

Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET

Henderson is first joined by Executive Director and CEO of Automation Alley Tom Kelly to discuss the ways that automation and AI will impact on the future of Michigan’s jobs landscape.

Kelly says that as we move toward more automation in the workplace, we create “a stronger competitive position around the world. It wasn’t automation that took all the jobs, it was Mexico and China.” 

He notes that many people are fearful that automation and emerging technology will take jobs away from people, but he says that’s an antiquated way of looking at things: ”The robot is your friend…like a worker owns their car or home, the worker should own their robot,” says Kelly of what he envisions for the future factory and manufacturing workforce. 

Henderson also takes a deeper look into the monthly jobs report and unemployment numbers, joined by Martha Ross, a fellow with the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

Ross notes that although the unemployment numbers nationally have been hovering around three or four percent for years, the pay and stability of many jobs leaves much to be desired. She tells Henderson that nearly half of all workers between 18 and 64 years of age are earning just a little more than $10 an hour. “There’s a whole set of assumptions that we have to question about jobs and wages and customer expectations and what we’ll settle for,” says Ross on the issue of low-wage jobs and how they affect perceptions about the job market in the United States. 

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.

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