Vocational training and Industry 4.0

Vocational training and Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet or smart factories refers to the broad set of changes coming about in the workplace because of new technologies (these include, but are not limited to, mobile applications, cloud services, robotics and artificial intelligence). 

PharosN ecosystem provides new generation of learning and training aid for technical education, vocational and entrepreneurship training (TVET) offering sustainable development knowledge toolkit and its practical application for both local enterprise processes and global digital knowledge economy. Accordingly, to The World Bank, a knowledge economy is one where organizations and people acquire, create, disseminate, and use knowledge more effectively for greater economic and social development.

In research papers, it is pointed out that Industry 4.0 will increase the demand for systemic thinking and interdisciplinary collaboration. This demand might not mean that everyone has to excel at programming, but an understanding of IT and data structures and their strengths and limitations will have to be developed. This formal qualification in data handling will, of course, have to go hand-in-hand with knowledge of production technology. In fact, vocational training and skills gained by experience will become even more critical as employees face complicated situations at the workplace. A corollary of this is the need for better coordination between workers and IT developers. However, a fact often missed is that the qualification needs to be engendered by Industry 4.0 are not limited to workers and IT developers but apply even more to the management.

Given the importance of living labouring capacity and strong vocational training, the main stakeholders of industry have their critical roles to play in the future-proof development of Industry 4.0. 

For example, policymakers might need to create incentives for participation of workers in all stages of adopting new technologies and develop new frameworks to modernise vocational schools. 

Companies need to acknowledge employees’ experiential knowledge more, and stress on vocational training and diverse training programmes. 

Higher education should include the new skills needed by Industry 4.0 in engineering and information science courses, and also create real transfer opportunities between academic and vocational pathways to training.

The rapid pace of changes throws up new opportunities and challenges for all stakeholders, even for companies that have introduced automation technology over the previous decades. There are however particular challenges in production and engineering, especially concerning the kind of training and qualifications needed to make the best use of these technologies while ensuring good jobs, skills and well-being of workers.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of clarity seen in statements made in the industry about qualification needs resulting from Industry 4.0. There is talking about of soft skills and social competencies, as well as non-specific IT skills. Plattform Industrie 4.0, a project instigated by German trade associations, advocates greater integration of ICT and automation technology into vocational training, apart from skills like self-directed action and communication. 

It is believed that repetitive and physically demanding tasks will be taken over by machines, allowing workers to focus on more creative jobs. Most discussions on these topics predict opposed scenarios concerning essential parameters:

  • Work organization. Either a polarisation between qualified experts at the dispositive level and semi-skilled activities at the operative level or a swarm organisation, with skilled personnel on both dispositive and operative levels.
  • Labor division between humans and machines. Either a tool scenario (expert systems aiding skilled workers) or an automation scenario (restricted autonomy for skilled workers).
  • Effects on employment. Either the creation of new jobs or loss of as much as 51% of existing jobs to automation.

The reality will be somewhere in between, and other factors make the task of predicting the future even more difficult, such as disruptive changes on the product level (e.g. electric vehicles replacing cars with combustion engines); disruptive changes on the materials side; changes to the labour supply; as well as global changes.

There is no single, definitive version of Industry 4.0, and therefore no single answer to the question of appropriate qualifications. The needed qualification will vary depending on factors like the specific industry and the role a company plays in the process chain. Researchers e.g. in the paper “Effects of Industry 4.0 on vocational education and training needs” by Sabine Pfeiffer (University of Hohenheim) consider a four-dimension approach to qualifications, concentrating on broad categories of technologies expected to be seen as part of Industry 4.0, such as:

  1. social media@production – These are technologies in which Web 2.0 usage scenarios become part of manufacturing and already have a greater effect on companies due to large amounts of data.
    For example, An app for employees to plan work schedules or Mobile devices for monitoring production.
  2. data@production – New data links between physical objects that were not connected in the past will be created resulting in the higher potential for self-organised production management, maintenance and logistics integration. Big data and intelligent algorithms will play important roles here, making it the core of Industry 4.0. For example, Real-time parts tracking by customers or The personalisation of products.
  3. next generation@production – These will involve new techniques in production or other parts of the manufacturing process, particularly in areas that till now employed a high proportion of human labour. For example, 3D printing or Dual-arm and lightweight robots
  4. automation@body & mind – Tools like wearables and self-quantifying apps, combined with intelligent algorithms, will provide greater access to the bodies and vital functions of workers. Privacy could be a major concern in these technologies. For example, A smart glove to help workers use the right technique during assembly or Aggregating of employee health data through smartwatches

Additionally, it’s pointed out that three important arguments may be placed on qualification by Industry 4.0:

  • Methods of teaching are more critical than the technical content itself, which anyway will keep changing at a fast pace. From very early on, it will be essential to develop individuals who can think on their feet and act independently. 
  • Apart from soft skills like teamwork, people will need to establish inter- and trans-disciplinary collaboration ability. 
  • Employees’ role in Industry 4.0 will not just be limited to getting trained in the right manner and early on, but their participation will be necessary for designing the right systems. 

Allowing new forms of learning and participation is highly dependent on the management, which makes this group a bigger target for training than workers in case of Industry 4.0. 

PharosN platform helps to fully open up the potential of business by providing the knowledge and digital transformation instruments for running enterprise more effective and sustainable. To face new challenges and seize the opportunities, management and stakeholders in both private and public organizations obtain new solutions fostering resilience and sustainable growth in times of global instability and accelerated change. 

By addressing the challenges in a practical way and in compliance with Industry 4.0 and major international standards of quality, PharosN platform fosters both trainers and trainees in learning smart sustainable management in times of change. 

The new qualification needs arising out of technological developments in manufacturing are explored in various research papers. The paper “Effects of Industry 4.0 on vocational education and training needs” by Sabine Pfeiffer (University of Hohenheim) evaluates the new qualification needs arising out of technological developments in manufacturing, which are collectively known as Industry 4.0 and uses the unique significance of the dual educational system of training in Germany and Austria.