Blog around the contributing factors towards the skills gap in the plant, manufacturing and construction industries

Digital transformation is 25% technology and 75% people

James Skelton, Senior Recruiter at FMC Global Talent.
James Skelton, Specialist Marketer – Smart Industry at FMC Global Talent.

The biggest misconception amongst traditional industrial markets is that digital transformation, or digitalisation, refers solely to software and technology.

The truth is that achieving operational excellence or getting a better ROI on software starts with investing in people and providing the necessary tools to build a talent platform which appreciates the mechanics of a fourth industrial revolution.  

Having recently attended an Industry 4.0 event, I wanted to note my thoughts on why existing businesses are struggling to succeed from a personnel standpoint and why millions of jobs will be left unfilled across the Smart Industries over the next 10 years.

Major cultural problems

There were two questions which stood out from the conference, both of which link to business culture:

  1. Are today’s businesses creating the right environment for workers to evolve their skills?
  2. Are business leaders engaging with employees to understand their worries and concerns over Industry 4.0?

Business leaders, the government and employees must begin to appreciate that Industry 4.0 is forcing a “lifelong learning approach” to organisational culture. This starts with the amount (or lack) of training available to the existing workforce which addresses both the hard and soft skills gap.

Additionally, an open and consistent dialogue between business leaders and the workforce is required to evolve and tinker with delivering the right conditions for workers to thrive from Industry 4.0 technologies and processes.

Prehistoric training techniques

There are question marks over whether a traditional classroom environment creates the right atmosphere for learning. Overloading employees with masses of information without substance discourages long-term software and technology practicality.

“On-the-job” training is proven to have a longer-lasting learning effect on employees and, whilst it causes operational disruption, provides a deeper understanding of Industry 4.0 technology.

The Manufacturing Technology Center removes operational disruption and issues around trainer availability whilst bridging the gap between “the valley of death” through hands-on training techniques. Could institutions such as the MTC prove to be a long-term answer?

Soft skills are neglected

Whilst hard skills are without doubt critical in delivering Industry 4.0 technology, its’s soft skills which are “helping organisations adapt and compete in ways that machines can’t.

Business leaders are too invested in incorporating emerging technology quickly without considering the condition of their existing workforce and their receptiveness to operating such technology.

The soft skills which organisations should be seeking and developing most in 2019 include:

  • Interpersonal and intrapersonal
  • Motivation
  • Integrity
  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Adaptability

Breakdown in knowledge transfer

The engineering industry is aging and retiring without a replacement, accompanied by knowledge and experiences which are irreplaceable. This is fundamentally contributing towards the growing skills gap across engineering sectors.  

Having worked through a non-digitised era, much of their experience is poorly documented and without context, making knowledge sharing and transferring difficult.

Worryingly, younger engineering professionals and graduates aren’t interested in filling this void due to the slowness of Industry 4.0 adoption and investment.

Delivering on digital transformation promises will enhance the image and branding of the industry for young talent, with robots, IIoT, VR, drones etc proving a big hit amongst younger generations.