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Survey: U.S. workers in factories, other settings don't fear tech taking their jobs

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Kevin Southam wants his company's 49 employees to have the latest information on what's going on where they work.

He also wants them to know that his company, BenCo Technology LLC, invests in technology to help employees do their jobs better, not take them away.

A growing laser-cutting and metal-fabrication business in Honey Brook, Chester County, BenCo draws about half of its employees from Lancaster County. It has grown from 900 square feet in 1998 to two facilities totaling 65,598 square feet today.

Investing in cutting-edge technology and the training to make employees feel on top of the equipment, instead of threatened by it, is one of BenCo's top goals, said Southam, also a project manager/designer.

"You’re going to be a happier workforce if you feel like you’re a part of the team. And you’re a part of the team if you know all of the information that’s going around" about the latest technology investments and other company steps, said Southam, a Gordonville resident.

The attitude toward technology among employees at BenCo seems to be a typical one at manufacturing and other companies in the U.S., a Gallup survey has found.

Only 13 percent of American workers surveyed are worried about technology eliminating their jobs, the survey found. U.S. adults are most concerned that their benefits will be reduced, but their about that also is not high, Gallup said.

The results were compiled in an annual Gallup poll on work and education.

While employees in all workplace sectors are susceptible to fears of losing their jobs, the concern is traditionally high in manufacturing, where companies have been known to rely on automation to replace workers.

Gallup asked employed Americans to say how worried they are about six potential workplace changes: a cut in benefits; a cut in pay; a layoff; a reduction in hours at work; their company moving jobs overseas; or technology rendering their job obsolete or unnecessary.

The Aug. 2-6 poll included the question about losing a job because of technology for the first time, Gallup said.

While technology may prompt little concern, Gallup wrote, "It is possible that the effects of automation, which are increasingly permeating many aspects of American life, are not apparent to many workers."

Worker anxiety about the worst-case scenarios was higher between 2009 and 2013, after the financial crisis and at a time when the U.S. unemployment rate was much higher than it is now, Gallup noted.

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David O'Connor

David O'Connor

Dave O'Connor covers York County, manufacturing, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at doconnor@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @DaveOC_CPBJ.

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