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The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) holds huge potential for manufacturers of all sizes to grow their businesses through improved productivity. However, to fully reap the potential benefits, employees and managers will need re-training and upskilling to take on new processes and technology. In our most recent Workplace of the Future podcast, presented in partnership with Oracle, Martin Strutt (a 4IR expert), Mel Wileman (a workforce development expert) and Vikram Single (a digitisation in manufacturing expert) look at what manufacturers need to plan for when it comes to upskilling their teams.

While the industry is (rightly) focused on bringing in new talent through apprenticeship programmes and encouraging more young people into STEM subjects, Martin Strutt says manufacturers should also look to existing talent as part of their 4IR transition strategy. And it's not just about learning to use new technology. Oracle's Vikram Singla explains that 4IR is changing many companies' entire revenue model - moving away from selling a product, but selling a service (e.g. 'renting' a machine to a company who is charged on a per use basis). These new models require new processes and a new way of thinking in the workforce, particularly focusing on multi-disciplinary teams focused on delivering the best service possible. 

While making these changes, EEF's Head of Learning and Development Mel Wileman says, "Don't forget to communicate with staff why you're making changes or implementing training. It helps employees feel they're valued and being invested in. Also staff are often the best resources for identifying where up-skilling needs to happen and what they want out of their job role."

She also advises employers not just to think about technical skills gaps, but about gaps in business culture, behaviours or management skills. Bringing in a development and training specialist can help perform a skills gap analysis to ensure any training plan is aligned to the business' big picture strategy.To get started, try EEF's online gap analysis tool.

"Training budgets are one of things that get cut as a cost saving exercise. But employers then find, four or five years down the line, that they have a skills gap and succession planning hasn't happened properly," Mel explains.

And 'future proofing' a workforce doesn't necessarily mean traditional classroom based learning. It could be bringing in a trainer for custom, in-plant training. It could be one-one-one coaching for a particular manager. It could be taking advantage of the latest e-learning or virtual reality training that's available today.

Regardless of the way training is delivered, Vikram points out that, "No matter what, you need to have a continuous learning approach in your organisation to keep pace with changes."