Degrees “less important”
Some experts believe university degrees will be far less important in future, with personal skills becoming more critical. “We need radically different thinking and platforms to focus on capabilities instead of qualifications – an approach similar to the dating app Tinder for the new job marketplace,” says Alexander Spermann, the former director of German labor policy at the Cologne Institute for the Study of Labor.
As an example, he says instead of looking for a mechanic certified for a specific repair procedure, companies should look for employees who are open to change, “with expertise in repairing machines during production hours, specific experience working with a given machine brand, and experience using certain types of IT interfaces.”
That fits in perfectly with the WEF analysis that problem-solving, creativity and critical thinking will be the three top skills required by industry in 2020. Quality control will no longer be required, except perhaps in high-end luxury goods, as machines will increasingly take over most of the work – and probably do it better than humans. Employees will need to shift their focus to the things machines so far can’t do – one of the skills not even listed in 2015 but required five years later is “emotional intelligence” – the ability to read people’s emotions and react accordingly.
This new skill set will be particularly challenging on the shop floor, according to the BCG report “Man and Machine in Industry 4.0” It says employees will have to be more open to change, possess greater flexibility to adapt to new roles and working environments, and become accustomed to continuous interdisciplinary learning.
Companies will have to drastically increase their in-house training, predicts Theodor Niehaus of Festo Didactic. “There will be a huge amount of retraining necessary in industry,” he says. BCG partner and study author Markus Lorenz says retraining will even become a lucrative business in its own right – his own company is debating whether to enter the market itself and set up small “learning factories.”
Given the scope of change, it is clear that retraining for the fourth industrial revolution should not be left solely to HR departments but is also a CEO issue. Nonetheless, there is a lot that individuals can do to upgrade their skill sets. For example, many experts now agree that creativity is not an innate talent but can be learned – a whole library of how-to books has already been written on the theme.
Some of the books are better that others, but they all focus on a couple of central ideas: be open to new things, ask questions, doodle around, and create “firsts.” When was the last time you did something for the first time in your life? — Margaret Heckel