The Response of Educational Institutions to Industry 4.0

By Jonathan Soriano

What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 represents the integration of real-time data analytics into the end-to-end manufacturing production process. This integration enables 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—or Industry 4.0.

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 reduces the need for 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 a need for specific industry knowledge can be viewed as an opportunity because it means that employees can engage in different kinds of employment across various industries throughout their careers. Capitalizing on this new opportunity in the labour market will depend 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?

Recently, the World Economic Forum (WEF) published a report, “The Future of Jobs,” highlighting 10 skills that the WEF considers essential to potential employers in the near future:

  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 above-mentioned skills is known as “the case method.” This method presents unique situations or problems that students can analyze before arriving at a decision based on the information presented. The case method can be implemented within any department because unique cases and situations can come from any industry, complementing the instruction of pure knowledge and theoretical concepts with opportunities for students to apply these concepts in real-life situations.

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

Providing additional co-op or internship positions for upper-year students would also be extremely beneficial, offering students in any department the opportunity to apply the problem-solving skills they have learned 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 determine the level of technological competency that is required of them, given their industry. This knowledge will benefit both students (by demonstrating to them how Industry 4.0 affects manufacturing) and employers (by preparing prospective employees with technological experience and a better understanding of what is expected of them).

What next?

Adopting the case method should be the primary focus of every institution, and many post-secondary programs are already using it to teach students. The emergence of Industry 4.0 makes now the ideal time to begin collecting company data across industries. This data can then be used to build situations/cases for students to analyze and gain insight on the types of problems they must solve when they enter the labour force.

Works Cited

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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