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It’s the perennial question all kids face as they progress through school: what do you want to be when you grow up? The question takes on greater significance as kids turn into young adults in high school and beyond.

For instructors and administrators, the task of guiding the students entrusted to them is more important than ever. Whether they’re high school students thinking about what they will do after graduation or higher education students trying to decide which career path to pursue, today’s students need help figuring out how to turn their interests and abilities into a successful career.

What type of advice should advisors give to students looking toward a future workplace that will be impacted tremendously by new and evolving technologies? What skills should they recommend that will prepare students for the jobs of the future?

Fortunately, future career satisfaction can be as simple as meshing students’ talents and desires with the skills and roles that will be in demand in the workplace of the future. But what roles and skills will be needed five or ten years from now?

What Is the Skills Gap?

The good news for instructors and administrators looking to match their students’ interests and talents with the in-demand skills and roles of the future is that there’s a critical talent shortage in today’s workplace. And it appears that it will get worse before it gets better.

The term “skills gap” refers to the disparity that currently exists in the modern workplace between the number of open positions and the lack of skilled workers qualified to fill those positions. According to ManpowerGroup’s 2018 Talent Shortage Survey, 45% of employers worldwide (46% in the United States) struggle to fill open jobs, because they simply can’t find people with the skills they need.

The “skills gap” affects every industry and is the worst it’s been in over a decade. How bad is it? According to the 2018 Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute skills gap and future of work study, more than 2.4 million open manufacturing jobs could go unfilled over the next decade because of the skills gap.

What’s driving this talent shortage? The answer is clear: advances in technology. Most manufacturers surveyed by Deloitte believe the primary cause of the current skills gap is a “shifting skill set due to the introduction of new advanced technology and automation.”

What Is Industry 4.0?

Manufacturing is in the early stages of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, known by various monikers such as Industry 4.0, Smart Factory, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). In a nutshell, Industry 4.0 refers to the application of advanced technologies, such as robots, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT), to automate processes throughout every industry, leading to giant leaps in productivity and efficiency.

It’s increasingly difficult to find an industry or even a particular role that isn’t being impacted in a significant way by evolving technologies. As automation increases, Industry 4.0 technologies are redefining — not just replacing — the in-demand roles of the future.

These new technologies require a variety of advanced, complex skills, and new roles are developing as rapidly as current ones are becoming obsolete. As governments, educational institutions, employers, workers, and students seek to respond to a rapidly-changing future workplace, it’s clear that skills have become the global currency of the 21st Century economy.

What Will the Workplace of the Future Look Like?

No one knows for sure what the workplace of the future will look like, but it’s guaranteed to look quite different than it does today. According to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs report, 65% of children now entering primary school will one day work in new types of jobs that don’t even exist right now.

Sound far-fetched? It isn’t. Deloitte’s recent survey revealed that 47% of today’s jobs could be gone in the next 10 years, including 20% of assembly jobs in manufacturing. Experts believe many of these jobs will transition to new roles that require specialized technology skills.

What Skills Will Future Jobs Require?

According to Deloitte, the top five skill sets that will increase in demand as a result of advanced technologies and automation are: “technology/computer skills, digital skills, programming skills for robots/automation, working with tools and technology, and critical thinking skills.”

Specialized technology skills will obviously play an important role in the future. But as humans increasingly work on, with, and alongside machines, uniquely human skills (known as “soft skills”) will also become even more important.

Some of those important soft skills include things like communication, collaboration, creativity, problem solving, relationship building, and people management. Future workers will need to possess a mixture of both hard (technical) skills and soft skills to succeed.

How Will Students Get the Skills They Need To Succeed?

Today’s educators are tasked with figuring out how to teach students the skills they will need to succeed in the future workplace. At the secondary level, in-demand hard and soft skills need to be taught as part of a robust career and technical education (CTE) program. Focusing on STEM education within CTE will help educators build a pipeline of skilled students that will begin to bridge the skills gap.

Interestingly, not all in-demand roles of the future will require a four-year college degree. They will, however, likely require at least some type of post-secondary education, such as a two-year degree. Some roles may require another type of specialized training, such as a course of study leading to an industry-recognized certification.

Future roles will also require a new lifelong learning mindset that is open to continual skills development as technology continues to evolve and advance. Employers are already beginning to realize that what prospective employees are willing and able to learn in the future is becoming more important than what they already know.

What Are the Top 10 In-Demand Roles of the Future?

With all of the changes being driven by advances in technology, educators and students need to know which roles will be most needed in the future. ManpowerGroup’s 2018 Talent Shortage Survey outlined the following 10 most in-demand roles:

  1. Skilled Trades (electricians, welders, mechanics)
  2. Sales Representatives (B2B, B2C, contact center)
  3. Engineers (chemical, electrical, civil, mechanical)
  4. Drivers (truck, delivery, construction, mass transit)
  5. Technicians (quality controllers, technical staff)
  6. IT (cybersecurity experts, network administrators, technical support)
  7. Accounting & Finance (certified accountants, auditors, financial analysts)
  8. Professionals (project managers, lawyers, researchers)
  9. Office Support (administrative assistants, PAs, receptionists)
  10. Manufacturing (production and machine operators)

This list should come as no surprise to those familiar with Industry 4.0 and the coming reality of the Smart Factory that combines cyber-physical systems with automation and the Internet of Things. Most, if not all, of these high-demand roles can be found in any advanced manufacturing facility.

What New Jobs Will Industry 4.0 Create?

As advanced manufacturing facilities leverage the Internet of Things and increased automation to improve productivity and efficiency, entirely new jobs that have never existed before will also be created. What will these new roles look like? It’s unclear at the moment, but experts have started to look to the future to imagine what new jobs might emerge.

For example, Deloitte, working with The Manufacturing Institute, has begun to attempt to answer the question of what new jobs Industry 4.0 will create. In its recent report titled “The Future of Work in Manufacturing,” Deloitte describes a variety of anticipated new roles, such as:

What will these new jobs entail? According to the report, digital twin engineers will “create a virtual representation of both the physical elements and the dynamics of how an IoT-connected product operates and interacts within its environment, throughout its entire life cycle.” Many students might be excited by the prospect of using 3D software to build virtual models of physical systems in order to optimize their design, monitor their performance, and predict maintenance needs.

Other students might jump at the chance to work with drones in the future. According to the report, a drone data coordinator will perform “flight data analysis, route optimization, resource planning, handling requests for new information from stakeholders, and managing the drone service provider relationship.”

What Career Advice Should Educators Give to Students?

Knowing that a combination of hard, technical skills and soft, uniquely-human skills will be necessary to fill the in-demand and even yet-to-be-created roles, how should students go about preparing themselves for the workplaces of the future? Here are a few pointers instructors and administrators can use to motivate students as they think about and begin to plan their futures:

  • Match students’ talents and interests with the skills and roles that will be in high demand in the future. Challenge them to use their imaginations to envision how their skills and desires can be combined with technology to create value in the workplace.
  • Encourage students to develop a lifelong learning mindset. The skills they acquire to start their careers will likely evolve along with technology. They will have to get used to continual learning to stay relevant in the workplace.
  • Help students explore all of their options for education/training. A four-year college degree may not be required. In fact, it may not be the best option. Specialized two-year degrees and/or training programs may be preferable and cheaper. Apprenticeships and certification programs may also be attractive options.
  • Open students’ minds to workplaces they might not have ever considered before. Many people still associate manufacturing facilities with dirty environments and low-skill, low-pay, boring, repetitious jobs. In reality, however, modern advanced manufacturing facilities offer clean, attractive work environments with interesting, technology-driven, high-paying, highly-skilled jobs.

If they’ve never considered a job in manufacturing before, now is the time for today’s students to give it some serious thought. Not only are there jobs available now (more than 469,000 open manufacturing jobs as of September 2019), but Deloitte predicts there may be as many as 2.4 million manufacturing positions that go unfilled over the next decade because of the skills gap.

How Can Amatrol Help?

If a student decides to pursue one of the 10 most in-demand roles in a manufacturing setting, educators need to be able to guide them toward the technical skills they will need. Moreover, to make students immediately productive in the workplace, educators need to teach students necessary skills via hands-on training with real-world equipment.

Amatrol seeks to transform the global workforce one life at a time. With more than three decades of experience designing and manufacturing state-of-the-art training systems, Amatrol remains the world’s leader in skills-based, interactive technical learning for industry and education.

Amatrol offers learning systems for a wide variety of in-demand skill sets useful throughout industry, including: electrical, fluid power, mechanical, advanced manufacturing, mechatronics, automation, and advanced Smart Factory capabilities.

What truly sets Amatrol apart is its dedication to providing comprehensive training solutions that can integrate eAssessment with in-depth multimedia eLearning curriculum and robust trainers that teach hands-on skills with real-world industrial components. Visit Amatrol online to learn how educational institutions and manufacturers can leverage its technical training expertise to train tomorrow’s workforce today.

About Duane Bolin

Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer for Amatrol, Inc. Learn more about Amatrol and its technical training solutions, including eLearning, here and connect with Duane on Amatrol’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube pages.

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Duane Bolin
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