Digital skills planning is good for business – and society

Digital skills planning is good for business – and society

Skills matter to success. So, how do we ensure that our skills planning aligns with the larger “human” project?

Patricia Hume
July 27, 2023

I have been trying to get to grips with a serious paradox: Employers lament the lack of skills and a shortage of human capital, and yet millions of people are unemployed or underemployed. Indeed, the manufacturing industry will likely have 2.1 million unfilled positions by 2030. This is a staggering number.

According to an OECD Skills Studies report, which surveyed adult skills in several developed and developing countries, one of the causes of the mismatch between supply and demand of skills is that those of employment age are ill equipped with the skills to thrive and advance in a knowledge-based economy.

OECD: Skills matter

The OECD report reveals that poor skills severely limit people’s access to better paying and more rewarding jobs. This is probably the most telling and powerful quote in the report:

“The distribution of skills also has significant implications for how the benefits of economic growth are shared within societies. Put simply, where large shares of adults have poor skills, it becomes difficult to introduce productivity-enhancing activities and new ways of working, which in turn stalls improvement in living standards…In all countries, adults with lower skills are far more likely to report poorer health, to perceive themselves as objects rather than actors in political processes, and have less trust in others.”

The bottom line? Skills matter. So, how do we ensure that our skills planning aligns with the larger “human” project?

I am passionate about the training and sustainability of the New Manufacturing Workforce.  The manufacturing industry needs to adapt, and rapidly so. All sectors are changing and we are far from immune, despite the importance of our ‘traditional’ manufacturing skills.

The New Manufacturing Workforce: what is it, and how do we build it?

When I talk about the new manufacturing workforce, I am referring to the evolving nature of roles and responsibilities in the manufacturing industry. We see several colliding factors shaping our transformation. I’ll talk about a few:  

Automation and robotics

Advanced technologies such as automation, robotics, and AI are revolutionizing manufacturing processes. This has led to a shift in the required skill sets of the manufacturing workforce. While some manual and repetitive tasks are being automated, there is an increasing demand for workers who can operate, maintain, and program these technologies.

Digitization and Data Analytics  

Manufacturing processes are becoming more data-driven and interconnected. The use of sensors, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and data analytics has become common in optimizing production, improving efficiency, and reducing costs. As a result, there is a growing need for employees who can work with data, interpret analytics, and make informed decisions based on the insights gained.

Advanced Manufacturing Technologies

Emerging technologies such as additive manufacturing, nanotechnology, and advanced materials are transforming the production landscape. These technologies require specialized knowledge and skills for design, operation, and troubleshooting. Therefore, the new manufacturing workforce needs to be familiar with these technologies and adapt to their applications.

Lifelong Learning and Adaptability

The pace of technological advancements in manufacturing means that the workforce needs to embrace lifelong learning and adaptability. Continuous upskilling and reskilling are essential for employees to stay relevant and meet the changing demands of the industry. Employers are increasingly looking for individuals who are willing to learn, adapt to new technologies, and embrace innovation.

In short, our New Manufacturing Workforce will have a mix of traditional  manufacturing skills, digital literacy, data analysis capabilities and a willingness to learn new tech.

Who develops these skills and drives the programs?

I strongly believe that all of us in the manufacturing industry are responsible for not only upskilling ourselves, but ensuring the sustainability of jobs and careers in the sector. Thankfully, there are ways and means to be part of the education revolution for not only a stable and profitable sector, but a more equal and just world.

What kind of material will be shared with learners and students and organizations?

I think we all recognize those dense manufacturing training materials and work instructions. Pixelated images, weirdly printed manuals, and “flat” text – sound familiar? What about employees being trained and taught in old-school, top-down ‘classrooms’? Companies are still using these same tactics. (No judgment though. We’re all lifelong learners, right?)

What I have seen work is to-the-point, interactive and multi-modal training material. It’s not just a nice-to-have. We want to up productivity, eliminate errors and ensure quality control in a high-stakes sector.  Part of skills planning and implementation is knowing that we learn in unique ways, and that training design and materials should address this. I have spoken a bit about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again here.  

Love the learning process  

The only thing that’s constant is change. So, when we have to rapidly upskill, it’s a bonus to love the learning process. Ultimately those who have stayed on top of things will remain competitive in the job market and adapt to the evolving needs of the workforce.

When employees have a love for learning, they are more likely to seek out further educational and training opportunities. Then the magic happens: the pursuit of learning can help level the playing field by providing equal opportunities for personal and professional development.

A love for learning helps people reach their full potential. Because it’s a lifelong pursuit, it fosters resilience, adaptability and a “growth mindset”.

How do we measure success?

You and I know that we’re not going to create an engaged, equal and just world overnight. But the fact is, we have the tools available to start and scale.

Are you custodians of the future manufacturing industry? How are you plugging the skills gap while contributing to a better society?

About the author
Patricia Hume
Chief Executive Officer

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