As the Fourth Industrial Revolution picks up speed, humankind is witnessing dramatic fundamental shifts in the way we live, how we socialise, and how we work.
Also known as Industry 4.0, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has introduced extraordinary advances in technology, at a pace so rapid with momentum so bold that it’s forcing companies to rethink their structures and workforce developments.
RMIT Vietnam President Professor Gael McDonald said the changing nature of the employment has significantly impacted the way the University delivers education, in order to ensure students are well-equipped to enter the workforce confidently and competently.
“Before, people would all go to one location – the same building or place as their colleagues – to work. Now there are different patterns. The workforce is global; there are people from all around the world working on different schedules in various time zones and locations. That’s going to require a different type of oversight, communication, strategy development, team-building and personal development,” said Professor McDonald.
“It would follow then that the nature of work and the worker will impact the leadership of organisations. So we train our students to have mental agility, we train them to handle change.”
Given the speed of change both within the workplace and in knowledge, RMIT Vietnam has made courageous changes to course structures, increasing opportunities for students to interact and gain hands-on experience with industry, eradicating one-use textbooks to ensure information isn’t already dated when it’s delivered, replacing exams with authentic learning assessments, and inviting company leaders to give students glimpses into industry in real-time.
“Universities that are smart listen to their students as well, and monitor what they think. That’s why we’ve also created bite-sized learning courses, media-rich material, more practical experiences, and connectivity with our alumni who are already out there experiencing the workforce,” said Professor McDonald.
According to research, 87 per cent of 19,000 employers from 44 countries plan to increase or maintain headcount as a result of automation for the third consecutive year.* That is, rather than reducing employment opportunities with the introduction of technology as previously predicted, organisations are investing in digitalisation while also increasing their upskilling so that workers can perform new and complementary roles while working with machines.
“The research confirms what we already know, that technology begets technology which begets jobs. Some jobs will disappear completely, that’s absolutely true. But whenever technology comes in, there are always new opportunities that come with that as well: reskilling, partial integration with technology, and also completely new roles. Who knew thirty years ago that vlogging or being an influencer could become a career?” Professor McDonald said.
The most notable disruptors to date have been the Internet of Things, big data collection and analysis, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, virtual reality and 3D printing.
“The role of a university during an industrial revolution is to capture the leading-edge thinking, to communicate it in a digestible fashion, to assist with the acquisition of skills around that technology and then to actually take that technology further with research. The research, delivery of teaching, and the engagement with industry ensures that RMIT degrees stay relevant,” Professor McDonald said.
“Of course, there are dangers that come with technology as well. That’s why universities need to remain at the forefront of new discoveries; they’re acting as the critical conscience of society.”
RMIT President Professor Gael McDonald spoke at Eurocham’s World of Work Vision 2020 on training the needs of the future workforce to meet the requirements of the 21st century.
*ManpowerGroup, Skills Revolution 4.0 Humans Wanted: Robots Need You
Story: Lisa Humphries