By Jonathan Soriano

What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 embodies the integration of real time data analytics into the end-to-end manufacturing production process. This integration allows all parties involved in production to access the data and respond immediately. The result is an interconnected, automated manufacturing process that allows increased product customization. Productivity is also improved because of the stronger consumer and supplier impact on the production process. This transformation of manufacturing is being referred to as the fourth industrial revolution.

How does Industry 4.0 Affect Job Opportunities?

Increased automation in production and the ability to respond immediately to consumer preferences will completely change the job opportunities available to future graduating students. The automation process replaces the necessity of employees to have specific knowledge regarding their area of work. Employees will be required to become more involved in the supervision of processes rather than actually performing manual labour. The lack of specific industry knowledge required should be viewed as an opportunity because it means that employees now have the potential to engage in different kinds of employment across various industries throughout their careers. Capitalizing on this new opportunity in the labour market is dependent on the successful development of cognitive abilities, and complex problem solving skills that are easily transferable across firms and industries.

How Should Educational Institutions Respond?

“The Future of Jobs”, a report recently published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), highlights 10 skills that are believed to be essential to potential employers in the near future. These skills are:

1. Judgement and decision-making
2. Complex problem-solving
3. Service orientation
4. Negotiation
5. Critical thinking
6. Creativity
7. Cognitive flexibility
8. Coordinating with others
9. Emotional intelligence
10. People management

Educational institutions must respond to the increased demand for these types of skills by adjusting their teaching methods. Failure to do so will result in a generation that is unprepared to enter the workforce immediately after graduating. An effective teaching method that develops the skills mentioned by the WEF is known as “The Case Method”. This method develops the previously mentioned skills by presenting unique situations or problems that students can analyze, and then arrive at a decision based on the information presented. The Case Method can be implemented within any faculty because unique cases can be created using situations or problems from any industry. This complements the instruction of pure knowledge and theoretical concepts in class by providing students with opportunities to apply the concepts that they learn to real life situations.

Including required group projects in course curriculums will also contribute to the development of teamwork skills that potential employers are seeking. Mandatory participation and class discussion is another method that allows students to practice their communication and relational skills with one another. All of these suggestions clearly shift the focus of educational institutions from simply presenting students with theory and concepts, to the application of acquired knowledge and increased interaction with peers.

Providing additional co-op or internship opportunities for upper year students would also be extremely beneficial. This would give students in every faculty an opportunity to observe and experience the application of problem solving skills they have developed in school. Although technological skills and an understanding of data analytics will be required across all industries in the near future, some industries will be more technologically integrated than others. Students will be able to learn the level of technological competency that is required of them, given their industry. This benefits students because they are able to witness how industry 4.0 affects manufacturing, and employers benefit as well since graduating students will have attained some technological experience and have a better understanding of what is expected of them.

Moving Forward

Some post-secondary institutions already have programs that use the Case Method to teach their students. Adopting this method should be the primary focus of every faculty. The current emergence of industry 4.0 makes now the ideal time to begin collecting company data across industries. This data can be used to build situations for case books that students will analyze, and gain insight on the types of problems they must be able to solve when they enter the labour force.

Sources:

Carroll, William J. “Industry 4.0 Leaders’ Educational Requirements-A New Focus on  Leadership.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 17 Nov. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/industry-40-leaders-educational-requirements-a-new_us_5a0f2bbee4b0e30a9585068a.

Schwab, Klaus, and Richard Samans. “The Future of Jobs.” World Economic Forum, reports.weforum.org/future-of-jobs-2016/preface/.

“Industry 4.0: The Fourth Industrial Revolution.” i-SCOOP, www.i-scoop.eu/industry-4-0/#Industry_40_definition_the_digital_transformation_of_industry_and_the_fourth_industrial_revolution.

Gill, Hew. “Is Education Keeping Up With Industry 4.0? » Leaderonomics.com.” Leaderonomics.com, 24 Aug. 2017, leaderonomics.com/personal/education-industry-4-0.

 

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