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Whether you’re a student, teacher, or parent, you must have heard of this intimidating term called ‘Industry 4.0’ and how it will ‘change the world’ even as we speak. Worry not, we’re more familiar with it than we think. Here, we’ll cover how it will change the future of the workforce and how we should prepare for it in this article instead.
What is industry 4.0?
Back in the 1950s through to the 1970s, parents all around the world slugged it through their day-to-day jobs, good or bad, to pay for their children’s education in the hope of securing a brighter future for their children. Back then, it meant giving their children better chances of being a white-collar worker and not a blue-collar worker. Working in an office environment, especially in a government-related organisation, was highly regarded.
Now, forward to 2020, much has changed.
Where steam engines and railways used to connect us, now almost every device we own and use does the same…only faster, better, and more accurately. That’s what we call the fourth industrialisation, industry 4.0, or simply, the Internet of Things (IoT).
Malaysia acknowledges the need to keep up with Industry 4.0
The Internet is now acting as the bridge between machines and humans. It is no longer feasible for individuals, groups, organisations, and corporations to maintain its current pace because it is evident that the floodgates have been thrown open. It’s now all about smartphones, smart homes, smart cars, augmented reality, real-time data collection and analysis, and robotics.
The future needs more innovators, data analytics, computer-savvy workers even in traditional environments, and quick adopters of technology and artificial intelligence. Why? Because smart systems in the form of an influx of intelligence computing, automation, and robotics are quickly seeping into the fabric of society and the world.
It will enter your sphere even if you’re an accountant or the owner of a large empire of companies. What the educational system, not just in Malaysia, needs to do is to inject elements of the new world of sensors, mobile devices, artificial intelligence, and ordinary materials and objects that are used to connect our everyday world to virtual ones, as early as possible.
Preparing for the world of smarter everything
‘Smart’ refers to automated systems and software used to collect information from tangible and intangible items in the physical world and network them so that they can communicate intelligently with each other. In the real world, the result is more efficient products and services that understand our needs and customise our experiences. The end-products can come in the form of smart factories, smart products and smart services.
At this point, traditional education systems do not yet have in place a curriculum that introduces the basics of industry 4.0, what they do, how it is down, and what we can do about it, to students. The topic of industry 4.0 will only be studied either first-hand during employment (where special training is provided), or at tertiary level.
For one, if you’re a student in Malaysia, being curious about the ways of the industry is a good start.
In the advent of smart factories, smart homes, and smart personal devices, we think the topics should be broached even earlier, if possible, during the primary level of education. Students need to learn how software network production systems work together to create a vast intelligent interface which disseminates and interpret data in a factory, office or home to foretell human behaviour, patterns and preferences.
Based on algorithms and design, these intelligence systems can also be programmed to make their own decisions without human intervention.
How is industry 4.0 changing our world on a personal level
If you think you’re working in a law or accounting firm and won’t be affected much by what’s happening around industry 4.0, you might want to think a little deeper into it. The IoT is going to affect the following whether we like it or not:
- Businesses – as long as you’re using a software program, computer, POS system, Internet, messaging systems, it will affect the way your organisation and business is run
- Physical structures – it is becoming quite impossible to live without coming into contact with at least one smart device or building in this world. As we move forward, built-in digitised components in structures and devices are already in place in our physical world
- Data and information – instead of viewing it as an intrusive, negative way, industry 4.0 can help make lives easier for everyday people. It understands behaviour patterns and delivering personalised data and information to us instantly
- Communication – the prime purpose of industry 4.0 is to help us communicate better, faster and more promptly with each other. They do this by accessing, processing, collecting, and analysing data and based on our communications
- The transitional period – this is a time of nervous integration as we transition from the physical world to the digital one. There is a dire need for people who understand how this can be best done so that it is not disruptive to the inner workings of our everyday lives.
The perceived threat to skilled workers the world over
While anxiety and worry have gripped the hearts of people all around the world about how robots and artificial intelligence will take over our traditional jobs, the view should be taken more positively because if we understand what the IoT can and will do for us in the future, we will think of it differently.
As with all the previous industrial revolutions, skilled workers are the ones who rose up to challenge the revolution. What the world needs to recognise, for one, is the fact that industry 4.0 is not going away; secondly, we need more humans with the skill, recruitment talent, and training to help us understand, adopt, and integrate these systems in real life. In understanding it, we will see industry 4.0 for what it really is.
What industry 4.0 threatens is not our employees but our skills. We need to change our workforce to become flexible people who think quickly on their feet, have deep analytical thought processes, and strong leadership capabilities.
People who will be valued the most are employees and business people who are not afraid of the revolution. Instead, they’re focused on keeping up.
With 24% of automakers turning into smart factories by 2022, and with a whopping 49% of them investing more than 250 million into turning their traditional factories into one, we need more people who can help overcome the up-and-coming challenges of industry 4.0.
- Data collection and implementation
- Understanding the exchange between devices, machines, and services
The 'revolution' needed in our education system
The world has changed, the way we work has also changed, but our education system remains the same. We are still producing manpower that may be ill-equipped for the new world. As with many parents who are worried about their kids moving from blue-collar to white-collar jobs, parents and students today are also worried about a similar transition.
Are we prepared for the change ahead of us?
“The education system needs to reflect these changes. Students need to be exposed to Industry 4.0 from the primary level. Students need to be taught in detail how to develop a technology using codes and algorithms. App development, which can be learned from a very young age, need to also be taught in schools,” says Associate Professor Dr. Sawal Hamid Md. Ali of UKM.
The earlier we realise the change, the better we can adapt, and the more ready we will be. With information readily available at the touch of our fingertips, it is not impossible.
After all, we live in a new world where e-hailing apps like Uber and Grab disrupted conventional traditional transportation systems, Amazon almost single-handedly bankrupted the world’s largest toy store, and Netflix edged out video rental service provider, Blockbuster.
It is safe to say that as we propel forward at breakneck speed towards the revolution, the only people or business that will be eliminated are the ones who refuse to acknowledge the new technology.
And we need to start with educating our young and provide intense training for our skilled workers.
Conclusion to what Industry 4.0 entails
- The fourth revolution is all about the Internet – it is something we cannot avoid
- Malaysia acknowledges the need to keep up with Industry 4.0 and changes needed in our education and training systems
- The world is in dire need or innovators, programmers, analysts, and computer-savvy workers in traditional environments
- Industry 4.0 is not biased. It will permeate the lives of everyone
- Innovation is not a direct threat to skilled workers. It has merely demanded a change
- Students need to be taught how to develop technology using codes and algorithms as early on as possible
By recognising the need of future workers, the Malaysian education is ready to arm the future generation with skills they need to not just survive but thrive in just about any industry they wish to be in. That’s why Malaysian colleges and universities remain popular with international students.
In fact, you should have a read about some of the fastest-growing professions in the world and then speak to us directly to see if we can help you secure a spot for you in a leading Malaysian university.