Jobs and new skills in industry 4.0

Jobs and new skills in industry 4.0

With industry 4.0 and automation, human work will not reduce. Rather, it will change. Hence, those working in the factories of the fourth industrial revolution will require new skills. Manufacturing companies are already preparing for this scenario, with specific training programs for their employees.


New technologies and new business models are revolutionizing the future of industry. Miniaturization, for instance, is making everyday objects smarter. Digitization, on the other hand, is generating an ever-increasing amount of data, while Deep Learning is fuelling Artificial Intelligence. The fourth industrial revolution is leading us towards the so-called Industry 4.0 and its “smart factories”, which largely rely on automation. In Italy, the industry 4.0 market is estimated at about 2.4 billion EUR. The Industry 4.0 Observatory of the Politecnico of Milan identifies the driving force of this market in the Internet of Things (IoT), a technology sector with an estimated value of 1.4 billion EUR.

How will work change in the new industry 4.0? What tasks will be carried out by automation, and which ones by humans? What new jobs and what new skills will be needed to work in industry 4.0?


Industry 4.0 and new jobs: a positive balance

Humans Wanted: Robots Need You, concludes a report by Manpower Group on the most useful skills in the industry 4.0.

The report describes how the job market is changing in the era of the fourth industrial revolution. In 2018, over 19.000 employers from six different industrial sectors in 44 countries were interviewed for the research. They were asked to comment on the impact that automation will have on their company in the coming years, how it will affect existing roles, which functions will be in demand and which will be suppressed, and what strategy they will adopt to attract the best talents.

A striking fact emerges from the report: automation will not cause jobs to decrease. On the contrary, employers who plan to keep or increase the number of employees have raised from 83% to 87% in three years. Similarly, those who expect to reduce their employees have decreased from 12% to 9%.

The companies creating more jobs are precisely those in which automation plays a major role. In fact, 24% of these companies expect to hire new staff over the next two years. Only 12% expect to reduce the number of employees.


Industry 4.0: homemade talents

As technology becomes increasingly complex in the industry 4.0, so do the skills required to govern it. The hunt for new and young talents has just begun. Interestingly, it is becoming apparent that new talents are no longer trained by universities, but ever more by companies. Why?

Because talent is scarce, and new skills require more time to emerge than old ones to disappear. The education system is not always able to keep up with an evolving job market. Therefore, it fails to provide companies with a highly qualified and ready-to-use workforce. That is why companies are increasingly setting up internal training programs for new talents. It is expected that by 2020, about 84% of companies will provide dedicated training and updating programs to their employees.

Transversal skills will make the difference in industry 4.0

On one hand, automation will certainly expand the job market. On the other, surely it is changing this same market. Companies that are investing in digital transformation are looking for new professional profiles to include in their workforce.

In particular, the demand in the Information Technology sector is growing, with 16% of the companies planning to hire in the field of IT, continues the report. There is, however, a discrepancy between supply and demand: in the United States, 86% of IT job offers require a bachelor’s degree, but only 43% of candidates have one. The same is true for 92% of job offers for Java developers, for which a master degree is required: only 48% of candidates possess one. The phenomenon is not limited only to the US, but it also involves European countries.

In addition, together with hard skills, the industry 4.0 will also require so-called soft skills. Companies no longer need just good developers, engineers, or IT workers. They are also increasingly demanding communication, negotiation, leadership, management and adaptability skills. These skills are transversal among different professional profiles: 65% of companies planning to hire in the IT sector claim that they require various soft skill, the most important being communication. Data indicate that by 2030 the demand for transversal soft skills will increase in all sectors by 22% across Europe.

Another interesting fact concerns the comparison between technical skills and soft skills. For 38% of managers, it is difficult to provide employees the technical skills required today. But for even more of them (43%), teaching transversal skills, such as analytical thinking, communication and problem solving, is even more difficult. In the near future, the most successful candidates will be those with greater creativity and the ability to process complex information, combined with adaptability and teamwork capacity.


Industry 4.0 and new skills: investing in training

All roads lead to training. By 2022, more than half of the current workforce will need individual training courses to improve existing skills or acquire new ones. Most companies (35%) foresee providing training periods of up to six months, 19% are planning courses lasting one year or more.

To remain competitive in the global market, companies are beginning to promote a culture of training and career guidance for their staff, providing opportunities for studying and professional growth. Employees will face new challenges and will fill roles that are more demanding in the future. Thus, they should receive adequate preparation, and support in their personal development and training.

As automation increases, the number of companies hiring is on the rise. Industry 4.0 requires different skills; many companies will invest in specific training and continuing education programs to keep their employees skilled. The demand for soft, transversal skills will also increase. The most important will be communication, negotiation, leadership, problem solving.

Jobs and new skills in industry 4.0


Industry 4.0 in Italy

How are Italian industries preparing for the fourth industrial revolution? According to the Industry 4.0 Observatory of the Politecnico of Milan, half of the companies claim they have already completed or started an assessment on new skills, and one in four plans to do so in the future. The assessment involves all functions and roles inside the company, from workers to managers and owners. Overall, the analysis reveals five main factors necessary to enter the new 4.0 labour market:

  1. Implementing lean manufacturing, the production philosophy of the Toyota model that has now surpassed the mass production model developed by Henry Ford.
  2. Resorting to a digital supply chain management. This allows companies to assess the performance and improve the efficiency of their distribution chain.
  3. Providing competences in cyber security, useful to mitigate the cyberrisk due to the introduction of new IT and digital technologies, which increasingly expose companies to cyber attacks.
  4. Adopting the smart maintenance or Maintenance 4.0, a new way of performing maintenance with digital technologies. Operators receive tools to perform maintenance activities appropriate to the degree of actual wear of the systems, saving time and resources, and therefore increasing productivity.
  5. Strengthening the human-machine interaction, i.e. the development of interfaces between people and machines, thus improving the overall performance of a company.


The observatory notes that 30% of Italian companies feel they are prepared to face the challenges of Industry 4.0. Among the remaining ones, 24% intend to bridge the gap by training personnel and 11% intend to acquire the missing skills outside the company. However, of these latter only a minority has already developed a structured plan for training or selection of skilled personnel.


The Italian national 4.0 business plan

The National Industry 4.0 Plan (“Impresa 4.0”), was launched in 2016 to promote the innovation process of Italian manufacturing companies. The plan envisages tax incentives, financing for investments (including high-risk ones), a facilitated regulatory and administrative framework for startups and SMEs, and a guarantee fund for companies that have difficulty in accessing credit. Currently, on the Ministry of Economic Development (MISE) website, the complete list of provisions set out by the National Business Plan 4.0 is available.

The plan also envisages the creation of two new entities: the Digital Innovation Hubs, territorial centres supported by Confindustria and R.ETE. Imprese Italia to assist Italian SMEs in the transition to industry 4.0; and the Competence Centres, training and research centres promoted by some Italian universities to strengthen the relationship between academia, research and industry (the provisional ranking of the Competence Centres drawn up by the MISE is currently online).


Deep Blue: supporting companies transition to industry 4.0

The trends are clear: human labour will continue to have a fundamental role in industry 4.0. However, the type of work will change profoundly, and so will the skills necessary to perform it. But undertaking training and professional development courses will not be of interest only to individual professionals. On the contrary, this process must necessarily involve companies, which will increasingly need to train their new workforce internally, while developing their innovation process towards industry 4.0.

Deep Blue has been optimizing Human Performance for third parties for 15 years. Therefore, our experience allows us to support companies in their innovation process towards industry 4.0, and in training and upskilling their employees. Our approach does not look at technological innovation in isolation, but focuses on the organizational context. So, we seek to effectively integrate new technologies with the human beings using them.


An example of what we do: the Tetra Pak Vision Study

In 2017, Tetra Pak asked us to imagine their plant of the future. We investigated the next demographic and technological changes and hypothesized how human work will change.

Hence, we delivered to Tetra Pak a vision study, which aims at indicating a path forward that allows exploiting the potential of new technologies to its fullest, while designing the human role together with these technologies. The initial version of the study also included an analysis of future technologies for the fourth industrial revolution, envisaging a way to include them in the Tetra Pak environment. This first study has allowed us to take a path, which we are still working on together with Tetra Pak.


Optimising human performance in a context of technological innovation. How to increase productivity, efficiency, and safety

Our path to innovation starts with identifying the needs of our clients. A fast and detailed planning process provides concrete and specific scenarios, customized for the world our clients operate in.

We base our services on the continuous balancement between innovating the technology, and updating the human skills and organizational processes required to better support the technological innovation. Thus, we ensure improvement of the overall company productivity.




1) Defining present and future trends and scenarios, with regard to both the technological innovation and the transformation of production systems, and their impact on the workforce.

2) Describing a strategy to enter industry 4.0: market trends and business factors.

3) Studying the current production system and technological level of a company. Selecting an innovation path; for example, automating the production line. Identifying the related new skills required;

4) Providing training courses on interfaces and human-machine interactions. Focus on integration and mutual understanding between people and automated systems.

5) Monitoring results; subsequently, undertake actions aimed at improvement.

1) Defining present and future trends and scenarios with regard to human labour in industry 4.0 and the new skills required.

2) Organising company workshops, interviews and focus groups for managers and employees, in order to identify needs.

3) Studying the current organizational system and business processes. Drawing a strategy to redefine roles, processes, and new professional figures aimed at supporting the innovation process.

4) Developing a roadmap to optimize human performance towards industry 4.0. Providing customized training courses for companies and individual professional figures.

5) Monitoring results; subsequently, undertake actions aimed at improvement.


In addition, Deep Blue can provide companies with guidelines, principles and tools for internal innovation, based on the needs identified and the analysis carried out.


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