Tom Wilkerson is CEO of CertifyMe.net which offers OSHA-approved forklift training for a wide variety of industries, including transportation, construction, telecommunications, warehouse & storage, logistics, and many others.
Certain blue-collar jobs have been in the news a lot lately.
Take forklift drivers, for example.
Headline after headline suggests that forklift drivers, aerial work platform (AWP) operators, aerial lift workers and other similar industrial employees are in a competition against technological improvements (i.e. robots), particularly as they relate to storage and warehouse management.
That's the narrative. But does the narrative align with reality?
We'd like to set the record straight by examining the impact of robots and automation on the forklift industry, specifically how each will affect current and future jobs. Then, we'll offer an overall employee outlook for forklift drivers, AWP workers and other related careers.
The current state of forklift jobs
Current analysis projects that forklift jobs will remain in demand well into the next decade, and even into the 2030s and 2040s. That's the big picture. On a more detailed level, researchers have examined the impact of robots and automation on forklift jobs for years.
Like many other studies, the body of research collected from a recent New York University project stated that most of the fears about massive job losses are overblown. The NYU researchers conducted the study with years of historical economic data as a basis for their projections.
But let's look beyond academic research and get into how robotics and automation will impact the future forklift job market.
Robotics and forklifts: plenty of jobs available!
The mere mention of "robotics and forklift jobs" is enough to scare some people, but we should pump the brakes on any suggestions that robots will replace actual human drivers anytime soon. Sure, service industry jobs are integrating robotics and other tech-heavy upgrades, but the bottom line is people are still required to drive and maintain powered industrial trucks.
But here's another aspect of robotics that rarely gets attention, simply because negative news helps sell newspapers and online advertising: for many forklift functions (think ergonomics and efficiency), robotics are designed to assist human drivers - not actually replace them!
The automated workspace and jobs: looking for (more than) a few good forklift operators
When the United States Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) starts to computerise and automate accidents for its massive databases, you know there's no ignoring the 900 lb. gorilla in the room. But forklift drivers shouldn't regard automation as the final nail in the job outlook coffin.
According to OSHA's own outlook in regards to automation and forklift jobs, powered industrial truck operators - the human kind - will remain an integral part of all types of industrial applications that involve forklifts, AWPs, aerial lifts and more.
And if you're worried about automation advancements eventually taking your job, or at least making forklift jobs more scarce, it's always a good idea to get the best possible OSHA forklift training to ensure you stand out from other job applicants.
Forklift jobs forecast: better than you think
If you're still worried about robotics and automation, consider a much-publicised study that caught the attention of blue-collar workers everywhere: the worldwide forklift and powered industrial truck marketplace will grow roughly 7% annually at least for the next decade. That means that forklift jobs will be in greater demand every year, probably into the 2030s!
If you keep up to date with your OSHA forklift training and maintain a positive attitude, there's no reason to believe you can't get a well-paying forklift job anywhere in the country!