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How do you upskill employees to work alongside robots?

At Digital Talks 2019, I chatted to science and technology journalist, Katherine Templar-Lewis, about the skills needed in Industry 4.0 and how ‘lifelong learning’ is at the heart of this

Tell us about yourself

My role in Semta focuses on employer engagement, so I talk to employers in the engineering and manufacturing sectors about the skills that they will need in the future. We also work with employers across the manufacturing space to try and help them recruit, train and retain employees. By doing this, we address two of the most common barriers of entry to digitalisation: skills shortages and lack of technical expertise.

The thought of ‘robots taking our jobs’ is frequently talked about in the media. What do you say to employees who think that this could happen to them?

In the future, robots will work alongside humans in a collaborative way as so-called ‘cobots’. In this role, cobots will take on the more repetitive, labour-intensive tasks, while humans will be tasked with more high-skilled jobs in areas of diagnostics, creativity and innovation.

People will also find more opportunities in the technical maintenance and programming space. For example, the Made Smarter review predicted a net gain of 175,000 jobs through the adoption of digital technologies. The same report identified a £455 billion boost to UK manufacturing from industrial digitalisation technologies (IDTs), which includes robotics and artificial intelligence. As a result, people will find manufacturing jobs far more stimulating than they have been in the past. On the other hand, they will also need to learn new skills.

How can people upskill so they are ready to take on the evolving world of manufacturing?

While education remains as important as it ever has been, more focus will be on personal development and ‘lifelong learning’ in the future. For instance, at Semta, we promote ‘peer-to-peer’ learning for employees and employers, which we use to supplement the traditional one-to-many, classroom-based approach.

Something else that might be useful is our Engineering Talent platform which supports people who are entering the engineering and manufacturing sector, as well as those who need to upskill in new areas. The learning portal helps employees learn about specific topics through interactive learning experiences so that they can continuously update their knowledge in line with industry standards.

Hear more from Sarah on our Digital Talks Live podcast