Across many developing, emerging and advanced markets, the emergence of digital, green, knowledge and service economies alongside globalized value chains is changing the needs of the labor market and the future of work. There are many twenty-first-century skills that are required in the workplace ranging from leadership to entrepreneurial aptitude. Specific skills are important in certain environments. A few examples of the above are as follows:
Skills for future:
Behavioral skills are valuable because of the increased importance given to service delivery that requires regular interaction with customers;
Flexibility and adaptability have become important as young people are more likely to move between informal and formal sectors, and due to the growing trend towards short-term or project-specific employment;
Computer literacy is becoming vital in low- and middle-income countries as online support jobs are outsourced from higher-income countries; and
Technical vocational skills remain the key to success. In fact, in many emerging economies, the demand for higher-skilled labor is currently very high as a result of greater outsourcing and offshoring.
Industry 4.0, already in place
We are witnessing a significant transformation in the way in which we produce goods owing to the digitization in manufacturing. This transition is so powerful that it is being called Industry 4.0 to represent the fourth revolution that has occurred in manufacturing. From the first industrial revolution (mechanization through water and steam power) to mass production and assembly lines using electricity in the second, the fourth industrial revolution will take what was started in the third with the adoption of computers and automation and enhance it with smart and autonomous systems powered by data and machine learning.
More about Industry 4.0 and skill requirement
Even though some dismiss Industry 4.0 as merely a marketing buzzword, there are shifts occurring in manufacturing that deserve our attention.
Many experts believe that adoption of Industry 4.0 will result in increased use of automation and robots in the shop floor.
Given that these robots will be capable of performing various tasks multiple times with high levels of accuracy and within a shorter time duration than humans, robots will act as efficient replacements for labor. For example, an employee whose job is to fix a specific part while assembling an engine will be replaced by a robot that will carry out the same job accurately and in lesser amount of time. The quantum of jobloss, however, is expected to vary across countries, industries and employed levels of automation. Experts on the other end of the spectrum believe that the use of Industry 4.0 technologies will not result in job loss, but might result in an increase in employment. The above statement is based on the fact that Industry 4.0 will result in an increase in labor productivity and in the quality of the products manufactured. Therefore, the demand for quality products manufactured will increase, leaving companies with no option but to increase capacity in order to meet the demand. Certain low-skilled jobs will be eliminated in the process. However, it is expected that an increase in capacity will have a positive effect on the creation of jobs that require higher levels of skills. Employees who lost their jobs due to elimination of low-skilled jobs need to be re-skilled or up-skilled to make them ready for the new requirements. In summary, the creation of new high-skilled jobs will compensate, to a large extent, for the elimination of low-skilled jobs.
So, it is very important to understand what changes Industry 4.0 will bring in the current manufacturing setup, what will the new tasks be that an employee would have to do, how will it be different from what he or she has been doing and what additional skills would be required to carry out those tasks successfully.
What are the key skills required by Industry 4.0 and the future?
Skills that will increase in importance as knowledge work becomes more prevalent are those that intelligent machines might facilitate, but cannot perform:
Managing and developing people
Complex problem-solving and decision-making
Process improvement expertise
Managing and maintaining digital systems and networks
Business leaders, managers and workers in the current workforce will all need to face, guide or work through the implications of a digitalized workplace:
Reframing organization culture
Arranging workforce skills and values according to a new paradigm
Providing skill development for employees
Accessibility and security of information
Monitoring technologies, surveillance and worker independence
Human interaction and involvement in a highly networked and automated environment
With rapid changes in the skills required for the jobs coming into play, companies across the world are facing challenges in finding a skilled workforce at current skill levels. In many industries, Bots are going to take over all repetitive and mundane tasks. Technology is evolving faster than ever before and the talent pool through which employers have to select workers is shrinking due to the declining quality of workforce. Our youth has to be ready with the required skills for the near future as change will not wait for us: business leaders, educators and governments all need to be active in upgrading the skills and training people so that everyone can benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.