How Is Industry 4.0 Going to Affect the Jobs Market?

Whilst talk of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has only been around for the past decade or so, robotics machinery has been integrated into manufacturing systems since the 1970s. It is the emergence of smart technology, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Systems and Things that has presented us with the reality that 50% of companies believe automation will drastically decrease their number of full-time staff by 2022.

As an expert engineering recruiter in the automation and control industry, we are already seeing the changes that Industry 4.0 is making to the recruitment and employment landscape and working with our clients and candidates to help them navigate the changes and developments that occur. This article covers the key changes and predictions for how the Fourth Industrial Revolution will affect the jobs market in the future, and what businesses and employees can do to adapt.

What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is also referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and describes the digital transformation of manufacturing processes and the wider impact that this shift is having on almost every other industry. Originally implemented to improve the productivity of factories and manufacturing plants, Industry 4.0 uses robotics, AI, automation, big data and the Internet of Things and Internet of Systems to complete various tasks and processes without any human involvement.

Some experts dismiss the term ‘Industry 4.0’ as simply a buzzword, but you cannot ignore the changes and advancements that are being made in AI, robotics and IoT technology that are having a significant impact on our lives. As more and more of the world becomes digitised, the Fourth Industrial Revolution represents a significant shift towards automating hundreds of jobs and tasks that have previously been done by human workers.

Whilst there are numerous benefits to the technological advancements being made as part of Industry 4.0, many people are hesitant or even afraid of the progress that the future holds. A popular study carried out by the McKinsey Global Institute predicts that around one-fifth of the global workforce will be affected by the integration of AI and automation in a variety of industries, and many people fear that intelligent robots and IoT systems will leave them out of a job.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution does present plenty of potential changes to employment and the jobs market as we know it, but these changes aren’t necessarily negative. There are plenty of opportunities for innovation and growth as we integrate more smart technology into our workplaces, particularly in the automation and control sector.

How Will the Jobs Market Be Affected?

The most significant way that the job market is predicted to be affected by Industry 4.0 is that a large proportion of roles in the manufacturing, agriculture, industrial and construction industries are going to be taken over by automation. These industries are most at risk because a large proportion of the roles involve repetitive, simple or dangerous tasks that are more suited to robots than humans to reduce error and risk and improve productivity.

A study by the OECD found that 14% of jobs across 32 countries have a 70% chance of automation, with a further 32% of jobs at a moderate risk between 50% and 70% chance of automation. The phasing out of human employees in sectors such as manufacturing and food production has already begun, and almost every industry is predicted to have some form of automation and AI technology introduced over the next decade, replacing or reducing the need for full-time roles.

This significant reduction in roles across numerous industries is a worry for many workers in low-skill jobs, who may find themselves without any opportunities if all the jobs they have been trained for are being taken over by robots and smart systems. Whilst the shift to automation is likely to be gradual, there is still a risk of rising unemployment in certain sectors which could have a significant effect on the jobs market.

However, the introduction of new technology and systems comes with the opportunity for masses of new jobs to be created. The demand for robotics and automation systems and equipment will increase and therefore more jobs will be created to design, develop, install and maintain this technology, along with plenty of positions to operate the new machinery.

For many workers, Industry 4.0 will bring about changes instead of losses to their roles. New skills and knowledge will be required to continue in your profession, but the use of technology to carry out basic and repetitive tasks will free up more time for creative, innovative and meaningful work that is predicted to make many jobs a lot more fulfilling.

Emerging technology and the reduction of roles that require long shifts of in-person work is likely to also lead to more contract and flexible roles that allow for remote working. By using robotics and smart systems to complete tasks that previously would have required a workforce all in one location, employees will be free to focus on work that can be done elsewhere, and combined with the rise in remote working prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the jobs market is likely to see a lot more flexible and remote roles in the future.

In the control and automation industry, the jobs market is already changing with many employers seeking candidates with specific Industry 4.0 skills and knowledge of things like IoT tech. Clients are increasingly looking for candidates with strong technical abilities and expertise in these areas which means they can adapt to changing trends and developments in the industry.

Whilst labour intensive roles are being reduced and replaced by robotic machinery, there has actually been an increase in engineering roles developing and manufacturing this technology. Relevant skills in automation, AI and robotics are in high demand, and existing candidates are having to boost their existing skills to remain relevant and competitive.

How can Businesses Adapt?

A key adaptation technique for businesses facing the changes brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution is to focus on responsible leadership. Many business owners will have to make decisions weighing up job losses against profits and progress, and it is important to keep the ethics of your decisions in mind to maintain employee satisfaction and a positive image of your company.

If you decide to replace existing systems and processes with smart technology, consider how you can adapt the roles of employees to work with this new technology instead of cutting jobs and then hiring new employees with existing Industry 4.0 skills. Whilst the training required to do this may cost more initially, you’ll benefit from keeping staff who already have an affinity with your company and know how the business works, reducing onboarding costs and retaining employees who gain more valuable skills.

Upskilling is going to be a key part of adapting to the changes presented by Industry 4.0, and businesses should consider investing in staff training so that new systems and equipment can be easily integrated into the workplace when needed and reduce any anxiety that employees have over potential changes by equipping them with necessary skills to adapt.

For businesses in the automation and control industries, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will prompt a steep increase in demand for relevant technology, software and systems. Business growth will mean that workforces will expand, new roles will need to be created as the industry develops and finding candidates with valuable skills will become a priority. Ensure that you have a solid business development plan to cope with this growth, along with an efficient recruitment strategy or specialist recruitment partner to ensure that your workforce stays ahead of the curve. 

In a different vein, Industry 4.0 is set to affect the jobs market with the different technology that is introduced to improve recruitment processes. As well as considering how AI, robotics and smart systems can integrate with the work your business does, also consider how you can use this technology as part of your sourcing and hiring process.

Some recruiters are now using AI technologies to help narrow down their shortlists and optimise early sections of the recruitment process, providing a more efficient service that removes the likelihood of any human bias or error. This is likely to make a big difference to recruitment in the years to come, and it’s worth considering agencies who integrate this kind of technology into their process.

How can Candidates Adapt?

As a candidate, the best way that you can adapt to the changes in the job market brought about by Industry 4.0 is to focus on how you can make the most of the new opportunities presented by this development. As we have already mentioned, there is potential for hundreds of new roles to be created as technology and systems continue to evolve, as well as a shift in many roles that allow for more innovation, freedom to think creatively and meaningful progress.

Upskilling and continued learning are essential if you want to remain a valuable worker and adapt to the changes on the horizon. Those in the manufacturing, engineering and industrial sectors will massively benefit from keeping up to date with what knowledge and skills are most useful and taking the initiative to undertake training and additional skills courses to stay relevant.

This continued learning is essential at any stage of your career, not just for those starting in roles that incorporate automation, smart tech and systems or AI. 

Candidates at the start of their careers should consider the value of apprenticeships as well as university degrees and equivalent courses, especially if they’re going into sectors where the use of Industry 4.0 technology is prevalent. Now, practical skills and experience are viewed as just as valuable as theoretical understanding, and these kinds of qualifications are being sought after on the job market.

If you work in the control and automation industry, you are likely to see a boom in new roles related to Industry 4.0 on the jobs market. Staying up to date with industry trends and development will establish you as a talented potential employee if you’re looking for engineering roles designing and supplying new smart systems and technology, as will investing time in upskilling and developing your expertise in existing roles.

Summary

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to affect almost every aspect of the jobs market, and the control and automation systems industry is at the heart of a lot of this change. The developments brought about by the introduction of robotics, AI, smart systems and automation into a range of workplaces have a lot of exciting possibilities, but in order to successfully navigate the changes that the job market will experience, preparation is key.

If you’d like the help of an expert recruiter with valuable knowledge of sourcing and hiring for jobs affected and created by Industry 4.0, Samuel Frank can help. To find out more about how a specialist engineering recruitment agency can make a difference for your company, get in touch and speak to a member of our expert team.