Revamped learning for 'Employment 5.0' - a more human and entrepreneurial workplace

The 'future of work' looks data-heavy and complex with both long careers and short skill life cycles.

‘Employment 5.0’ is not a point in time but a 'future-of-work' concept that envisages a resilient, sustainable and human-centric workplace. To realise this, we will need shared understanding across multiple disciplines, platforms and generations. Digitalisation is central but continuous learning is the core enabler for SME’s to move from asking “what can we do with technology?” to “what can technology do for us?”.

Engineering Skillnet provides learning programmes that create functionally competent and regulatory-ready talent for ‘Employment 5.0’.  Future-proofing workforces in the face of emergent technology requires developing transversal skills for both resilience and sustainability. For example, entrepreneurialism and continuous learning help staff to overcome and recover from unexpected setbacks. Sustainability is largely driven by nurturing greater accountability and enabling business transformation e.g., through strong data-literacy. A recent interview by journalist, Barry McCall, helps unpack our plans to develop talent in these directions and meet tomorrow’s challenges in an increasingly uncertain world.

Short skills life cycles and “forever employable” workers

“Our member companies are dealing with skills shortages,” says Engineering Industries Ireland Director Pauline O’Flanagan. “It is a very important industry with over 50,000 people employed 10,800 enterprises, 65% of them indigenous companies. It is responsible for exports of €8.8 billion. Companies in the sector are embracing Industry 4.0 in order to remain competitive and productive and that creates new skills needs which Engineering Skillnet is helping to meet.”

And those skills needs are constantly evolving. “Neither ‘Employment 5.0’ nor ‘Industry 4.0’ represent a single point in time,” says O’Flanagan. “New technologies keep coming along and companies must either adopt them or be left behind. Firms need to be in a constant state of future-readiness. And that means investing in their people.”

“The OECD estimates that 54% of staff will need upskilling and reskilling for ‘Employment 5.’0,” says Engineering Skillnet, Manager, Fiona Fennell. “There is a recognition amongst our Engineering Skillnet members of the importance of transversal skills like invention and ideation being developed in tandem with functional skills.

One of our newest training offerings meets this dual need. The 3D Modelling and Prototyping course introduces learners to the sustainable technology of additive manufacturing while also enabling them to develop their design thinking. Invention and reinvention are vital in an era when the ‘half-life of engineering knowledge’ – the time it takes for 50% of knowledge to become obsolete – is between five and seven years and shrinking.

Register your interest in the above 3D Modelling and Design/Prototype Production course below:

“As careers lengthen but skills lifecycles shorten, identifying and retaining key talent gets tougher” says Fennell. “That’s the price we pay for technological advances, so we deliver programmes that develop what writer Jeff Gothelf calls “forever employable” talent through a combination of continuous learning, self-improvement, entrepreneurialism, reinvention and self-confidence”.

From data to knowledge creation

The Engineering Skillnet continues to support knowledge workers to convert data into business value by boosting 'transversal' skills like critical thinking and technical communication. As technology advances, knowledge expands with more skills specialisms emerging. The different specialist languages can also create barriers to real understanding between disciplines. With better communication skills, however, expert and non-experts alike become more confident outside their own fields and can avoid crossed -wires following the key principles of clarity, completeness and contextual correctness. Our 2-day Problem-Based Learning programme in Technical Writing and Communication helps to improve interdisciplinary knowledge-sharing across platforms and generations and so is most appropriate to the long career spans of ‘Employment 5.0’.

Register your interest here for the upcoming 2-day virtual Technical Communications course:

in February, we launch a new 1-day virtual and interactive workshop designed to get creativity flowing by sharpening collective thinking skills. Through facilitated dialogue, participant groups discover that creativity is often about asking the right questions to ignite action. Turning problems upside-down, like reverse engineering, helps teams gain the unexpected insights that are needed for innovation.

Register your interest here for the upcoming 1-day virtual Team Thinking for Innovation course:

The “fight” for talent

Meeting today’s skills needs is the primary focus for many firms, Fennell points out. “Companies are trying to make sense of the rapidly changing environment. Take digitalisation of the workplace, for example. According to Microsoft, 10 years progress on that was achieved in just two years as a result of Covid.” “Many of our member companies are SME’s and Tier 2 suppliers into multinational companies and can easily perceive themselves as a talent pool for bigger employer brands particularly with an increasing global labour-market”.

The globalised labour market has altered and heightened employee expectations however there are also opportunities not to be missed - “If we only look for and target talent in the same way and in the same place all the time, we are not going to find it,” says Fennell. “Companies need to look at changing their learning strategies to attract and nurture a more mature and diverse workforce including those on second careers, non-traditional workers who are cross-skilling from non-industrial sectors for a more versatile workforce”

Technical programmes offered by Engineering Skillnet to meet current skills needs include a  Level 7 Diploma in Maintenance Technology with electrical and pneumatics and also PLC, automation/ integrated manufacturing and control systems. “Informal learning often goes unrecognised at work but on these courses, learners enjoy the small groups and ‘safe-to-fail’ atmosphere”, says Fennell, “this helps ensure learning is more interdependent and therefore durable”. ‘Employment 5.0’ depends to a large degree on ensuring self-paced learning that allows for differences in preferences and boosts ‘learner agency’ – our belief that we can each make good learning choices.

Read our previous blog on ‘High-Impact Learning’ here-

Sustainable and quality-centric cultures

Both sustainability and quality rely on generating and collecting good i.e. ‘clean’ data. The Engineering Skillnet is offering programmes to upskill technicians and engineers to become more data-literate. “Some engineers are very much at the centre of the information flow inherent in ‘Employment 5.0’ as they are responsible for the aggregation and transfer of the data required to automate routine work,” Fennell explains. “We need a data-literate workforce, overall, to ensure that data scientists, who are in short supply,  don’t spend the majority of their time in data-cleansing.  That’s why we now co-creating a new Level 7 Diploma in Quality Technology which will be available to members in 2023”.

“This embeds a digital-first mindset in participants and trains them in the use of data-driven quality tools,” says Fennell. “It is interactive learning through a blended delivery, combining instructor-led virtual classes, projects using real data-sets from our member companies, personalised one to one coaching, and learning by assessment.”

The ‘co-operative learning’ approach employed in many Engineering Skillnet programmes also helps to develop team collaboration and other business-critical soft skills. “We’re killing two birds with one stone in our approach. Mutually-dependant learning between staff can often identify hidden talent as everyone gets the tools to participate in problem-solving equally,” says Fennell. “Teams learn how to take advantage of cognitive diversity to become more resilient and companies, in turn, more sustainable.”

The future workplace and talent changes represented by ‘Employment 5.0’ present both opportunities as well as threats and it’s how companies respond that will determine the future of both.

To find out how Engineering Skillnet can support your company’s talent needs contact and book individual programmes on the links below, contact Fiona Fennell, Network Manager