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Robots Will Wipe Out Fresno Jobs. Here's What We Can Do.
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By Bill McEwen, News Director
Published 5 years ago on
January 24, 2019

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The robots are here. And many more are coming, as artificial intelligence enables the automation of repetitive tasks in the manufacturing, transportation, distribution, and hospitality industries.
What will the impact be on Fresno?

Portrait of GV Wire News Director/Columnist Bill McEwen
Opinion
Bill McEwen
According to a report published Thursday by the Brookings Institution, about 1 in 4 Fresno jobs is at “high risk” of being automated by 2030. Along with that, another 4 in 10 jobs face a “medium risk” of elimination.
Among the Top 100 metros in the United States, the Brookings analysts rank us No. 10 for having the greatest exposure to job loss because of AI and automation.
Among the Top 100 metros in the United States, the Brookings analysts rank us No. 10 for having the greatest exposure to job loss because of AI and automation. The news is a punch in the gut at a time when Fresno is celebrating record-low unemployment and Mayor Lee Brand’s job-creation efforts are paying off.

AI Will Create Jobs, Too

It’s important to note that AI will create jobs, as well. This will help offset huge reductions in the ranks of short-haul truck drivers, food preparers, and office clerks.
States the report: “The remaining, more secure jobs include a broader array of occupations ranging from professional and technical roles with high educational requirements to low-paying personal care and domestic service work characterized by non-routine or abstract activities and social and emotional intelligence.”

Explaining Fresno’s Job Loss Exposure

Why is Fresno’s job loss exposure so high?
Two factors stand out: Much of the Fresno economy revolves around industries in which AI based automation can take root. In addition, among the Top 100 metros, Fresno ranks No. 96 in the percentage of adults with bachelor’s degrees.
Once again, we are reminded of the need to put more investment, urgency, and accountability into efforts to boost educational attainment. The forthcoming realities of AI also demand that we accelerate these initiatives — striving, as Fresno State President Joseph Castro says, to “boldly” capitalize on new technologies and brainstorm innovations.

Strategies to Leverage AI and Help Workers

This Brookings report should be mandatory reading for local leaders. All should be asking, “What can we do to prepare for the coming job losses and what can we do to help local workers, employers, and industries leverage the advantages of AI?”

Once again, we are reminded of the need to put more investment, urgency, and accountability into efforts to boost educational attainment.
There was a time when Fresno leaders didn’t engage in such big-picture thinking. Nor did they get outside of their silos to collaborate on solutions. But they’re getting better at it. And we’ve seen the fruit: more high school and college graduates, more workers acquiring advanced technical skills, and more young people entering the booming healthcare field.

Can Fresno Win This Competition?

Fresno’s movers and shakers now have to raise their games again. They must lead the way on implementing the key Brookings recommendations. Among them: create a full-employment economy, use technology to grow that economy, and promote the importance of life-long learning.
If we don’t adapt to the AI revolution, not only will Fresno fail to catch up with prosperous communities, it will fall further behind.
Understand: Neither the world nor the U.S. economy waits for anyone. It’s up to us to win the race.

Photo of robotic food preparation
A worker lifts a lunch bowl off the robotic production line at Spyce, a Boston restaurant. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

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Bill McEwen,
News Director
Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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