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5.3.2 Employment and ICT



Revision Points: (Full course)

Candidates are expected to:

  • describe the changes to the way businesses work due to the introduction of ICT e.g. automated production lines with less workers and more standard products, automated stock control ensuring stock is kept at correct levels, shopping on the Internet reducing necessity for premises etc;

  • discuss the changes caused by increased use of IT in industry such as size of business/workforce, type of workforce, siting of offices/manufacturing plant;

  • discuss the changes in employment due to the introduction of computers and the increasing use of network technology such as teleworking, flexible hours, job satisfaction, ease of tasks, training, re-training, work monitoring.

You will be expected to explain, with examples, the positive and negative effects of ICT on all aspects of employment.


The rapid developments in ICT have had a dramatic effect on modern society.

Many jobs have been lost because:

  • Robots spot-welding on an automated production lineICT can make someone more efficient at their job, a company can therefore employ less people to complete that job.  For example:
    • In a factory, skilled technicians and machinists can be replaced by computer-controlled robots which can work faster, for longer and more consistently.
    • In a factory, many dirty and dangerous monitoring jobs have been replaced by data-logging equipment using sensors.
    • In a factory, many quality control jobs involved routine sampling and were very boring, many have now been replaced by automatic machines.
    • In a warehouse, many loading and sorting jobs have been replaced by a few staff running a computer-controlled warehouse.
    • In an office, many typists can be replaced by one person using a word processor. This is a lot more efficient, for example documents can be saved and reloaded for editing rather than being re-typed and mail merging can be used to create apparently custom-typed documents.
    • In an office, many payroll clerks using calculators and paper-based records can be replaced by one person using a spreadsheet to calculate a company's payroll.
    • In an office, many clerks updating paper-based files in filing cabinets can be replaced by one person using a database.
    • In a telephone exchange, operators have been replaced by computer systems that make the phone connections automatically.
    • Control technology used in a car parkIn a car park, the car park attendant can be replaced by automatic ticket machines and barriers using control technology.
    • In a shop, online shopping means sales staff and cashiers etc. are replaced by staff selecting and sending out goods from a warehouse etc.
    • In a shop, stock control staff can be replaced by automated with bar-code readers recording items entering the building and being sold.
    • In a bank, ATM machines mean less cashiers are needed inside the bank to deal with customers.
  • Working with ICT requires new skills and many workers found it difficult to retrain because they found the new skills to hard to learn.
  • Converting a business to make use of ICT can be very expensive and many small companies could not afford to make the change and could not compete against those that had.

Many jobs have been created because:

Computerisation has created many new jobs or radically changed existing jobs. For example:

  • Engineers are needed to build the new computerised machines.
  • Programmers are needed to write the new programs that the computers run.
  • Systems analysts are needed to design the new computerised systems.
  • Skilled workers are needed to operate the new computerised machinery.
  • Skilled workers are needed to use new software such as graphics packages, web-design software and CAD programs.
  • More staff may be needed because of the increased business generated by improved efficiency.

Many jobs have changed because:

  • People may work less hours as a result of the increased efficiency of automation and the introduction of ICT into their workplace.  This has therefore led to an increase in leisure time.
  • New skills are needed to use the computer software and hardware. Pupils who gain ICT skills during their education, as well as staff who are prepared to retrain, are well placed to take advantage of the new forms of employment.
  • Highly skilled jobs can now be done unskilled staff using a computer.  A skilled machinist can be replaced by someone operating a computerised lathe. This can result in a more standardised product because there is less risk of human error.
  • Many professional jobs can now be done by amateurs using a home computer.  For example photographic editing, video editing and sound editing.
  • Many people can now work from home using teleworking.
  • Students can educate themselves more easily due to the huge amount of educational software resources and information now available, much of it interactive and allowing then to self-assess.
  • In many jobs, the efficiency of staff can now be accurately monitored by computers, this can help target resources but can be very stressful if staff are set unrealistic targets.
  • Communications equipment means employees can be available and able to work even when on holiday or weekends. This can be stressful on individuals and families.
  • Employees can have more job satisfaction because the jobs involving some aspect of ICT generally require higher skill levels and may therefore be less boring.

Teleworking

A teleworker at homeTeleworking usually means working from home, using ICT to communicate with your workplace.  A teleworker would need the following equipment:

  • A computer (essential)
  • Internet access (essential, broadband speeds would be needed if using video-conferencing)
  • Email facilities (essential)
  • A fax machine to send images of documents over a phone line (optional, computer software could be used instead)
  • Videoconferencing equipment such as a microphone, speakers and a video camera (optional, required for online meetings etc.)

The teleworker does not actually have to be based at home, a journalist for example could be anywhere in the world and still get his article or photographs into the next day’s newspapers if he had Internet access to transfer his files.

Videoconferencing means using computers to provide a video-link between two or more people so that you are able to see them as well instead of just talking by telephone.

What the employer has to consider:

  • Possible advantages:
    • Offices can be relocated to places where it is cheaper, more attractive or more convenient for transport links etc.
    • Less staff in the office means office running costs and overheads for utilities such as water, heating and electricity can be reduced.
    • Less staff in the office means premises can be smaller, saving building costs and reducing business rates.
    • It might attract better staff to come and work for the company because of the advantages it offers to them.
    • Problems with staff commuting into work might be reduced.
  • Possible disadvantages:
    • There will be less direct control over the staff.
    • Replacing consumables (paper / printer toner etc.) will be less efficient.
    • There may be less of a 'company ethos' because staff don't meet in person.

What the employee has to consider:

  • Possible advantages:
    • They can work from the comfort of their own home.
    • They can chose to live somewhere that is cheaper, is more attractive or has better schools and other amenities.
    • There are no travel costs or time wasted travelling to work.
    • The way they work through the day is up to them and this can reduce stress levels.
    • There is great flexibility with the working hours so they can fit around the needs of children or elderly/infirm relatives or another job for example.
  • Possible disadvantages:
    • Teamwork is more difficult because the opportunity to meet people and share ideas is more limited.
    • Distractions at home may make it difficult to get on with work.
    • They can feel very isolated from their work colleagues.
    • They end up paying the heating and lighting bills etc. when the house might otherwise be empty.

There are also advantages to society, for example:

  • The reduced commuting helps the environment by reducing pollution and traffic congestion.
  • Reduced stress levels and the ability to care for children/relatives etc. can help reduce the support needed by the state.
  • Teleworkers can live in remote parts of the country and therefore help support local services and communities that would otherwise decline due to lack of employment.

The Internet:

The growth of the Internet has provided a range of new employment opportunities.

Internet shopping means a retail business does not even need a shop, just an e-commerce website where customers can order goods, a secure payment system and a delivery system.  There can be massive savings in staffing, setting up costs and the usual overheads associated with a high-street store and these can be passed onto customers in the shape of reduced prices.

A website can advertise products to a world-wide customer base, allowing specialist local shops to compete with the well known brands.

Online financial services such as banking and insurance means there is no need for a bank branch in every town.  This greatly reduces costs and therefore increases profits.


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