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The new automation revolution will have a major effect on employment in the coming years. Nearly every job will change, many quite profoundly, and most of today’s employees will need to develop new skills.

A Canadian Case Study state that Industry 4.0 is more than the technology it is bringing. The report concludes that the workforce is a critical element in digital transformation. However, the skills and qualifications of the human capital will become increasingly eminent. There are many skills and qualifications that will be needed in the era of Industry 4.0 [1].

The report has a chapter called “SKILLS NEEDED IN INDUSTRY 4.0”. There we can read the following: When talking about the 4th industrial revolution, it is said that factories are becoming more intelligent and flexible, and different sub-systems will be linked to each other [2]. Machines will be connected to the factory IT systems, which will, in turn, be linked to other parts of the value chain such as plants, fleets, networks, and human beings, and will continually share information about the level of stocks, troubles, difficulties, or faults encountered, and/or modifications in the orders. This means there will be full traceability which will bring about the possibility of improving the overall product and service quality [3].

Industry 4.0 Challenges

Based on the changes in the manufacturing processes, various jobs will disappear, and many new jobs will emerge. The industry will face the extinction of physically demanding positions as these jobs will be replaced by machines [4]. The future employees will focus on creative, innovative and communicative activities rather than routine activities, as routine activities including monitoring duties, will all be performed by machines [5]. Consequently, the key factor in the success of these intelligent factories will be the skills and the qualifications of their workforce.

We can categorize the competencies in Industry 4.0 into four main groups [6]:

  • technical competencies (state-of-the-art knowledge, technical skills, process understanding, media skills, coding skills, understanding IT security),
  • methodological competencies (creativity, entrepreneurial thinking, problem solving, conflict solution, decision making, analytical skills, research skills, efficiency orientation),
  • social competencies (intercultural skills, language skills, communication skills, networking skills, teamwork skills, negotiation skills, ability to transfer knowledge, leadership skills)
  • personal competencies (flexibility, ambiguity tolerance, motivation to learn, ability to work under pressure, sustainable mindset, compliance)

Companies can use several different approaches to address skill gaps. They can look outside the organization, hiring new staff with the right skills. They can build skills internally, retraining their existing workforces to prepare people for new roles. Or they can take a hybrid approach, including using a skilled contract workforce to fulfil short-term needs while developing the necessary skills internally. Most organizations are likely to adopt a mix of those models. They may look to the external market to fill certainly specialized, highly technical roles such as data scientists, while aiming to fill new frontline roles, such as robot controllers and production-exception handlers, from their existing workforces. We believe that ongoing shifts in societal attitudes will increase the expectation that companies do more to retain and retrain their current workers wherever possible.[7]

Cyborg head artificial intelligence isolated on blue background 3D rendering

Nontechnical skills are as important as technical skills.

Robotics will to a certain level replace human labour. There is a universal agreement that manufacturers will increasingly use robotics and other advancements to assist workers. Some experts argue against the notion that all manufacturing jobs can be automated. The increased use of assistance systems means that the qualitative changes brought about by Industry 4.0 will likely be positive for the workforce. The number of physically demanding or routine jobs will decrease, while the number of jobs requiring flexible responses, problem-solving, and customization will increase.

A study from 2019 pointed out that nontechnical skills are as important as technical skills in the engineering profession in the Industry 4.0 era. Advanced technologies are not intended to replace humans for improved productivity; rather, there must be tight human-machine collaboration [8].

How to meet the challenge?

Industry 4.0 is likely to be accompanied by increased demand for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) qualifications in manufacturing. In the STEM environment, the skills bottleneck is likely to be felt most in developing countries, because of significant information asymmetry in new technologies, with a huge difference in the level of access to the knowledge between developed and developing countries, between rich and poor, and between large and small firms. Access to learning new skills in technology and science and building innovation ecosystems for technological learning and innovation will be crucial to enable developing countries to play an inclusive role in the global market.[9]

  • Developing countries must keep up with technological changes to ensure that they are not left behind by Industry 4.0.
  • Applying Industry 4.0 technologies can be a gradual process and some solutions do not have to be expensive.
  • Good ICT infrastructure is needed to help SMEs move into the digital economy.
  • Countries and companies will need a digital strategy and a strategic vision for a fully integrated multi-stakeholder policy approach.
  • Education and technical qualifications should play an integral role in digital strategy and a business-friendly environment.
  • Continuous learning and on-the-job training are necessary to develop the new skills required for Industry 4.0.

Technical and academic institutions must open lines for lifelong learning to meet the challenge of the rapid change in skills requirements in Industry 4.0. Interdisciplinary skills development could be necessary for Industry 4.0 to ascertain the effectiveness of employees in the engineering profession. Future work will focus on developing a model detailing conceptual skills requirements for different engineering professional levels.

Industry 4.0 Opportunities

The new industrial revolution will help a business become smarter and more efficient in the following ways [10]:

  • Optimization and automation lead to enhanced productivity
  • Real-time data for real-time supply chains in a real-time economy
  • Advanced maintenance and monitoring possibilities will enable greater business continuity
  • Real-time monitoring, IoT-enabled quality improvement and cobots (collaborative robots) will lead to higher quality products
  • Superior sustainability and better working conditions
  • Earn the trust and loyalty of the modern consumer with personalization opportunities

As mention before: Education and technical qualifications should play an integral role in digital strategy and a business-friendly environment.


[1] Nafea, Rania and Toplu, Esra, Future of Education in Industry 4.0: Educational Digitization – A Canadian Case Study (January 2020)

[2 Wermann, J., Kliesing, N., Colombo, A. W., & Moraes, E. C. (2015). Impact of new ICT trends for the educational curriculum in the area of Industrial Automation and Engineering. IECON2015-Yokohama, 3643-3648. 10.1109/IECON.2015.7392667

[3]Deloitte Report. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www2.deloitte.com/il/en/pages/consumer-industrialproducts/topics/industry_4.html

[4] Benešová, A., & Tupa, J. (2017). Requirements for education and qualification of people in Industry 4.0. 27th International Conference on Flexible Automation and Intelligent Manufacturing. Procedia Manufacturing, 11, 2195-2202.

[5] Erol, S., Jäger, A., Hold, P., Ott, K., & Sihn, W. (2016). Tangible Industry 4.0: a scenario-based approach to learning for the future of production. Procedia CIRP, 54, 13-18. DOI: 10.1016/j.procir.2016.03.162

[6] Hecklau, F., Galeitzke, M., Flachs, S., & Kohl, H. (2016). Holistic approach for human resource management in Industry 4.0. Procedia CIRP, 54, 1-6. DOI: 10.1016/j.procir.2016.05.102

[7] Kweilin Ellingrud, Rahul Gupta, and Julian Salguero: Building the vital skills for the future of work in operations (McKensey August 7, 2020)

[8] W. Maisiri, H. Darwish1 and L. van Dyk: AN INVESTIGATION OF INDUSTRY 4.0 SKILLS REQUIREMENTS (South African Journal of Industrial Engineering November 2019 Vol 30(3) Special Edition, pp 90-105)

[9] Industry 4.0 – the opportunities behind the challenge (UNIDO 2017. Department of Trade, Investment and Innovation (TII) Vienna International Centre, P.O. Box 300, 1400 Vienna, Austria)

[10] The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Industry 4.0 Challenges and Opportunities for Your Business (Stefanini group 2021)

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Karl Skaar
Mr. Karl Skaar

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