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Preparing for Industry 4.0: Will digital skills be enough?

This research arose from work commissioned by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee – in the form of a cross sector project looking at the need for digital skills in a range of manufacturing and related industries. The project was managed by IBSA Manufacturing, a Skills Service Organisation, which provides support to the following Industry Reference Committees (IRCs): Aerospace; Furnishing; Manufacturing and Engineering; Process Manufacturing, Recreational Vehicles and Laboratory; Sustainability; and Textiles, Clothing and Footwear. During the course of the project, national consultations were undertaken with more than 40 representatives from large (often multinational) businesses, small and medium businesses, unions, training providers and other VET sector stakeholders., Many of the individuals involved in the consultations raised questions about how well the VET sector was prepared for the substantial digital changes impacting on the workforce and the manufacturing sector in particular. They questioned whether Training Packages were sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of the manufacturing sector as it responds to growing levels of digital disruption (or what has been termed the 4th Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0). The research undertaken to support the project, also identified a vastly greater number of reports and papers focussed on the challenge of upskilling workers for an Industry 4.0 environment, than in relation to the need for specific digital skills for manufacturing and related workers. This report synthesises the research evidence – in relation to both digital skills and the broader challenges of skilling workers for the Industry 4.0 workplace.