How education could face the challenges brought about by Industry 4.0 – by Jobs@Skills

With the increasing importance of Industry 4.0 technologies, our societies are undergoing radical changes. Obviously, this technological revolution also impacts the labor market since companies are now increasingly looking for skills and qualities related to the use of technology. In addition, countless jobs, especially white-collar jobs, are going to disappear because machines will do them more effectively, but other new ones will emerge. If the labor market undergoes such drastic changes, education must in turn adapt to produce individuals who would be able to satisfy its new demands.

To do so, schools and universities must focus on two different and opposite aspects. On the one hand, with machines becoming always more high-performant, we humans must nurture our specificities, the most important of which is undoubtably our creativity. In other words, we must develop to their fullest all the human skills and capacities that machines will never possess. On the other hand, it will be imperative to deeply understand the inner workings of the new technological world brought by Industry 4.0 to get the best out of it.

Knowing what goals to achieve is a good thing, but it is not enough: knowing how to achieve them is crucial. Regarding the first aspect mentioned above, i.e. the development of the specifically human skills, it can be achieved through the development of four cognitive capacities that machines are deprived of: critical thinking, to contextualize and analyze the information technology provides us with; systems thinking, to assess the influence of a change or information on seemingly distant but nonetheless connected domains; entrepreneurship, to invent new jobs that will replace the ones that machines will make disappear and to transform companies from the inside so they adapt to Industry 4.0; cultural agility, to work efficiently in a highly globalized world where workplaces are always more collaborative.

About the development of the understanding of new technologies, new forms of literacies must be taught. The first is obviously technological literacy as it is necessary to grasp how machines function and hence to use them the best possible way. This would imply teaching coding from a young age for example, but also essential mathematic and engineering principles. The second is data literacy. Indeed, machines keep collecting all sorts of data, but these data are useless per se. They must be used and interpreted adequately to find the right correlations, but we also need to be able to determine their limits. Finally, the last form a literacy to develop is human literacy, which consists in understanding humans and how they behave in this highly technological world, because most interactions are still human-to-human. That human dimension is paired with an ethical dimension. Indeed, if we increasingly rely on machines, we must ask ourselves what ethical principles must guide their functioning. This is a capital question which must be answered taking account of political, philosophical, and legal factors.

Teaching all these things is far from easy and our current teaching methods can surely not suffice. That is why new pedagogical tools must be implemented. An example of such tool is thematic study which consists for teachers to explicitly state what skills or capacities they are trying to develop through their course and how they intend to do it. Another example is project-based learning, which would allow students to depart from a purely theoretical approach and would encourage them to make use of their knowledge in different fields. Finally, real world connections would make another good pedagogical tool since empirical experience of the real world is one of the best sources of knowledge. It is also essential for students to see how what they learn applies to practical situations.

All these propositions would contribute to building a future where human existence is alleviated thanks to the wonders brought by Industry 4.0, and where humans can develop the qualities that make them unique. It is only through education, which has always been the cornerstone of any well-functioning society, that this ambitious result can be reached. Therefore, it is normal that it evolves to fulfil the new needs of society.


Engineers Maintenance Robot Arm at Lab in a High Tech Research Laboratory with Modern Equipment. Technology and Innovation Concept.


Aoun J. Robot-Proof : Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Cambridge Massachusetts: MIT Press; 2017.


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