Bots and AI are rapidly changing the way of work. Researchers report redundancy of skills. Shobha Mishra Ghosh delves deep into the effects and the ways to cope with the change.
An industrial revolution at any given period of time has been initiated by the change in the energy and communication technology. The first industrial revolution was triggered by the invention of the steam engine and lasted for little more than a century (1784- 1870). The second industrial revolution was initiated with the invention of electricity and lasted for another century (1870-1970).
With the invention of computers and internet, the third industrial revolution started around the 1970s in the developed world. Within a gap of mere 36 years, the World Economic Forum declared the advent of the fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0 in 2016.
The point to be noted here is that the future industrial revolutions, will emerge at such speed and scale, that it will leave little time for the world to adapt to the change. It is this phenomenon that is extremely unsettling. Industry 4.0 integrates a wide spectrum of technological advances across the value-chain such as artificial intelligence, distributed computing, robotics, genetics, Internet of Things, nanotech, 3D printing, and bio-engineering – all working in unison to help solve diverse challenges locally and globally.
Global connectivity, smart machines, and new media tools are some of the drivers reshaping how we think about work, what constitutes work, and how we should learn and develop the skills to work in the future?
The world has already got a preview of the future with the advanced humanoid robot ‘Sophia’ that has been granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia; Hadrian X- an Australian based robot that completes a task meant for three-four human bricklayers; Tally- world’s first fully autonomous self-auditing and analytics-based robot, that ensures goods are adequately stocked, placed and priced and Tesla’s new $5 billion Giga 100% automated factory with limited human intervention.
The above scenario is typical of a developed economy. India with its diversities and complexities has all the industrial revolutions coexisting together. We too have our own robot Lakshmi in Union Bank, Chennai, who greets and welcomes the customers making the front desk officers redundant.
At the same time, we have national programs to create lowly skilled jobs for the poor. With 65% of the population in the working age group, India is grappling with skill millions of youth and engaging them in “gainful employment.’’ Our country is witnessing approx. 17 million new entrants into the workforce year on year against the approx. 6 million jobs created. Thus, it is important to understand the impact of Industry 4.0 in this context.
To understand the preparedness of BRICS nation in skill development to deal with Industry 4.0 needs, FICCI and Rolland Berger, a leading German consulting company along with member BRICS countries carried out a study on “Skill Development for Industry 4.0”. The report highlighted the “job polarization” with a decline in the mid-level, repetitive and rule-based jobs and increase in demand for creative, design-oriented high order skills.
To assess the ‘Future of Jobs’ in India, in consultation with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, FICCI and NASSCOM jointly commissioned EY to work on the subject. This India based empirical study highlights the impact of advanced technologies on key manufacturing and services sectors that create the bulk of jobs and contributes majorly towards GDP.
The report deep dives into five sectors, namely, BFSI, automobiles, IT & ITES, Retail and Textile & apparels and highlights changing trends of jobs, consequent skill requirements and recommendations for policy formation and implementation. The report highlights that 21% of the current workforce of 2017 will face the existential threat to their jobs in 2022. The report further finds that on an average 9% of the workforce would be deployed in new jobs that do not exist today, 37% will be deployed in jobs that have radically changed skill sets and remaining 54% will fall under unchanged job category.
Overall the report presents a positive outlook for India to utilize the time window of the next 2-3 years to effect large-scale reforms in the general, technical and vocational education system in mission mode. It is the purposeful integration of technical literacy’s, such as coding and data analytics with uniquely human literacy’s, such as creativity, entrepreneurship, ethics, cultural agility and the ability to work in diverse teams- would empower today’s learners to be future ready. Education for an age of Artificial Intelligence needs to focus not just on technology but also on nurturing our unique capacities as human beings.
So, the big question is – What skill-sets would individuals need to possess to be able to remain relevant in the workforce? What transformations are needed in the higher education delivery mechanism to facilitate this change?
The Road Ahead for Millennial
The table indicates the shift of skill sets expected of new graduates by the industry from 2015 to 2020. As highlighted, in 2020, two new skill sets, namely emotional intelligence, and cognitive flexibility would be crucial to be employable while complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity will be the top 3 skills.
Industry 4.0 workplace will need one to apply ‘design thinking’- a methodology that provides a solution based approach to solving problems. It serves as a process to dig opportunities in problems that are unidentified or unknown, understand the human needs associated with it and to come up with a solution to fulfill consumer needs in a better way. The 5 steps in this methodology are – empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.
Companies like Apple, Coca-Cola, IBM, Starbucks, and Nike are perfect examples of successful design-driven businesses. With so much technology available at our fingertips, does this spell the end for the traditional human-centered interaction between businesses and customers? This is where design thinking plays a crucial role in how companies formulate their business models.
With information, freely available on the internet, students and professionals have the opportunity to learn at an individualized pace and direction. People can no longer expect to hold one job with one company for life. Nor does the millennial generation want such a work life. It is expected that Millennial would not just move jobs but change several professions in their lifetime. Hence, continuous learning will be necessary to suit changing jobs, professions, and technologies
Re-skilling, up-skilling, and un-skilling
Rapid changes in the industry, owing to the exponential technologies will make it necessary for millennial to constantly upgrade their skill sets and unlearn some of the skills that have become redundant. In pursuit of new professions, re-skilling would also become commonplace. Back in 2013, AT&T re-skilled its existing workforce on areas such as cloud-based computing and data science and revamped the organizational and incentive structures to enhance collaborative performance. Likewise, Manpower Group is well known for its efforts towards supporting local partnerships for adult reskilling in Italy’s motorsport industry, assessing skills for platform economy entrepreneurial talent in China, and developing in-demand skills in France and India for IT and call center.
Roadmap for Higher Education
Today’s learners are active learners rather than passive receivers. The 21st-century instruction is based on three pedagogical principles – personalization, participation, and productivity. This framework allows learning through authentic real-world contexts, carrying out projects from beginning to end, and solving problems as they arise, all of which constitute powerful learning strategies. Forming working relationships with teachers and partners in the community, and working collaboratively with peers will also contribute to productive learning experiences for learners worldwide.
Integration of New-Age Technology
Future learning processes will inevitably take place in environments in which learners select their own modes of learning and integrate technology into education through the use of personal devices. New-age technologies should be effectively used to further reduce the boundaries between formal and informal learning. It also encourages “learn anywhere anytime”.
Skill Centric Teaching and Learning
Globally a new approach is building to develop skill-centric teaching and learning. Educational Institutions must implement a value-centric framework that incorporates 21st-century competencies, including civic literacy, global awareness, and cross-cultural skills, critical and inventive thinking, communication, collaboration and media literacy as well as social and emotional competencies.
Project-based and hands-on learning
To produce employable graduates, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Government of India, has simplified the Apprentice Act that enables manufacturing as well as the service industry to hire apprentices and train them hands-on with skills at the shop floor without too many obligations. There is a huge need to create awareness and outreach amongst the industry, academia, and students regarding this opportunity at hand. FICCI has been supporting the Ministry in both developing an ‘Apprenticeship policy’ and outreach exercise for this program amongst the small and medium industry.
Mission-based and cross-disciplinary learning
A rise of entrepreneurial courses at educational institutions has produced a wide range of initiatives that mold science and technology studies with entrepreneurship, business, marketing programs etc. Millennial should be encouraged to identify grand challenges of water, energy, health, education etc. as one of the missions and develop solutions applying design thinking methodology that will help in moving towards sustainable development.
Despite the huge potential of digitalization for fostering and enhancing learning, the impact of digital technologies on education has so far been ineffective. India must prepare itself to fully realize the economic opportunities of the technological advancements and transform to create a nimble demand-led education system integrated with skill development. A collaborative effort from government, industry, and academia can certainly turn the challenge of Industry 4.0 into an opportunity, but the time for action is ‘NOW’.