Industry 4.0 – can current education prepare the next generation?

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Industry 4.0 brings with it changes in terms of employability on a scale that demands a response from educational institutions. The fourth Industrial Revolution focusses on the coming together of digital, biological and physical worlds into the Cyber-Physical coalition.

The rise of automation (being an unavoidable result of this fusion) creates a new, unchartered manufacturing landscape. This scenario brings with it unique challenges for the generation tasked to navigate it. Higher education must adequately prepare these role-players. Digitalization has taken over factories, radically exposing the shortage of- and the demand for certain skills.

Digital natives are becoming increasingly skeptical of higher education institutions – often reactive and sluggish in terms of innovation – to supply and adequately prepare for a world these organizations don’t comprehend themselves. The ironic reality is that should they recreate their digital vision of- and appetite for this new industrial landscape, universities can flourish.

If however, Universities and colleges continue with outdated practices, habitually characterized by the drive to fill lecture halls and dormitories, the only meaningful contribution they will continue making is to the ever-increasing digital debt.

A paradigm shift is required if tertiary institutions are to play any meaningful role in shaping a digitally competent workforce. Furthermore, higher education institutions have to focus on integration & synchronized-evolution of people, processes and technology. Structures of learning/skills development need to be applied in such a way that outcomes and potential problem-solving are supported.  Adapt to the demand for new skills by embracing change, by proactively preparing for it.

The tertiary education sector must, therefore, embrace pending changes if they are to be part of the automation revolution.

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