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From Industry 4.0 to Adult Education 4.0

EPALE Österreich
Valoda: EN
Document available also in: DE



By Otto Rath, CONEDU

Industry 4.0: Ensuring continuity

Industry 4.0 signifies the changes in this sector as a result of digitalisation. The term is explained by the fact that we are currently experiencing the fourth Industrial Revolution – after industrial revolutions through the introduction of mechanical production equipment (end of the 18th Century), through the introduction of mass production (end of the 19th Century) and after automation through IT and electronics (1970s).

A reaction to this by the education system could be adapting education strategies and content to the new challenges of cyber-physical systems.

Information technology thinking for Industry 4.0

One could turn to ‘information technology thinking’, as recommended by Gerald Futschek in the journal of the Austrian Computer Society (Zeitschrift der österreichischen Computergesellschaft), and align Education 4.0 to the requirements of Industry 4.0. In this approach, the workforce must be equipped with new skills that they do not already possess, such as digital literacy for ‘digital immigrants’. This would open up a broad field for adult education.

Wolf Lotter, co-founder and editor of brand1, believes that Industry 4.0 as a consequence of digitalisation is such that work processes, hierarchies etc. change, but that the foundations of our industrialised society are not affected.

Work 4.0 in view of the transition to a knowledge-based society

Ensuring continuity in existing sectors and values through the ‘Industry 4.0 marketing concept’ (Anja C. Wagner and Wolf Lotter), however, conceals the view of the paradigm shift from an industrialised society to a knowledge-based one.

"In the next ten to twenty years we will experience the definitive transition," says Wolf Lotter, who identifies a similar time-scale to that of Anja C. Wagner in her lecture ‘Herausforderungen für Bildung 4.0’ (Challenges for Education 4.0). This evolution/revolution is not only leading to a change in the industrial context coupled with a massive loss of employment, but also to a fundamental reorientation of work and education.

47% of the jobs in the USA are at risk from automation, predicted Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne in their study ‘The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation?’, published in 2013. "This is too optimistic for Germany," states Wolf Lotter. The economic research department of ING-DIBA in fact anticipates a loss of up to 59%.

Restructuring of employment at all levels

"A loss of jobs on this scale is unsustainable," Lotter is certain, even if new jobs are created through digitalisation and the need for skilled workers is evident, such as in the areas of big data analysis, cyber security and cloud computing.

This loss of jobs affects not only low-skilled workers, but also highly qualified ones. As a result, society is forced to rethink the welfare state and develop alternative forms of livelihood. "In a transition phase," says Wolf Lotter, "a basic provision model makes sense in order to afford people the mental freedom to prepare for the new realities of the knowledge-based society."

The promise of the industrialised society that more education equals more employment opportunities is starting to crumble. "Highly-qualified individuals are also facing unprecedented problems, and must completely realign themselves to be able to participate in shaping the digital revolution," states Anja C. Wagner.

Adult Education 4.0: Development of self-reliance

Adult Education 4.0 could look beyond the adaptation of skills to the requirements of Industry 4.0 and the upgrading of employees with digital skills and take inspiration from the challenges of the knowledge-based society. It can hardly be disputed that digital skills are essential for participation in the society of the future.

However, you will need a broader and more open outlook than optimisation for Industry 4.0. Future concepts of work will not just require skills in dealing with the internet of things, but also in aspects of augmented reality, big data, virtual reality, 3D printing, artificial intelligence etc.

But above all, as Alice Fleischer (Institute for Economic Promotion of the Austrian Economic Chambers [WIFI/Wirtschaftsförderungsinstitut]), chair of the Conference of Adult Education in Austria (Konferenz der Erwachsenenbildung – KEBÖ) puts it, the acquisition of competencies focussed on "learning to act on one’s own responsibility, to think and acquire knowledge independently" will become the focus of educational concepts.


The Future of Employment (EN)

Droht mit Digitalisierung jedem zweiten Job das Aus? (DE)

OCG Journal: Der Weg zu Bildung 4.0 (DE)

Herausforderungen für Bildung 4.0 (DE)

Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon: Cyberphysische Systeme (DE)

Flowcampus - Anja C. Wagner (DE) (DE)

WIFI Österreich übernimmt KEBÖ-Vorsitz (DE)

Industrie 4.0: Wandel zur Wissensgesellschaft - Schichtwechsel (DE)

Author of original article in German: Otto Rath, on behalf of CONEDU

Editing: Wilfried Frei, CONEDU

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