Accelerating evolution in B.C.’s employee capability and institutional agility

The pace of industrial evolution is accelerating and the scope of change is expanding. While not necessarily a revolution, industry and government leaders are paying serious attention to an accelerated evolution. This changing pace of change will force our primary to post-secondary educational institutions to revisit just how they can foster innovation, agility and adaptability to a new industrial and economic reality.

The phrase “Industry 4.0” seems to keep popping up in trade publications, higher education news sources and in wider media circles. Conceptually this term denotes an increasingly connected and integrated world, harnessing big data, analytics, the internet of things, automation and new work patterns that seek to integrate human and automated processes in more flexible ways. Industry 4.0 isn’t just about smarter machines; it’s also about a workforce with new technical smarts and with a broader understanding of the big picture.

To prepare our workforce for the emerging Industry 4.0 changes we need to explore beyond a digital tools transformation to achieve a workforce capabilities transformation.  Here are three examples of potential initiatives we could undertake in collaboration – and only in collaboration – with workplace partners and government:

  • Enhance our co-operative innovation with workplace and government partners to address the broader capabilities needed for an adaptive and agile workforce. Industry 4.0 and Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan challenge all of us to catalyze a Made-in-Canada strategy to advance a Make-it-in-Canada reality.
  • Accelerate adoption and adaptation of open and online resources for specific technical content and redirect instructor time to resource development and experimentation with the new pedagogical challenges.
  • Monitor research directions that are changing the technology space in which our graduates will work. Commission Canadian research and pilot studies on the new integration of automated and human processes, and its expected transformation of the employment arena.

(In the British Columbia Association of Institutes and Universities, we’ve been researching how institutions in other countries are partnering with workplaces and governments to address the impacts of Industry 4.0 on the workforce. You can see a further discussion of developments in other countries our Academica Forum article.)

Co-authored by Thomas Carey (BCAIU’s Executive-in-Residence for Teaching and Learning Innovation) and Sal Ferreras ( Vice-President Academic and Provost at Kwantlen Polytechnic University).