Training the workforce for industry 4.0

  • News
  • Monday, 17 Jul 2017

A different take: Employers need to consider training their workforce as a form of investment rather than expense.

THE next industrial age is upon us. Automation and digitalisation are fast changing the world as we know it.

The use of new technologies will reshape the future of employment as robots will eliminate the need for manpower in repetitive jobs, enhance productivity and ultimately help sluggish economies.

But where does that leave human resources?

Technological advancements could see Malaysia lose 65% of current jobs by 2027 as most of the local workforce is not equipped for Industry 4.0.

First mooted in 2011, Industry 4.0 promotes the computerisation of manufacturing, bringing about what is known as “smart factories”.

“With this heightened utilisation of automation and digitalisation, it means that workers have to equip themselves with the right tools and skills to remain relevant,” says Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) chief executive Datuk CM Vignaesvaran Jeyandran.

Citing a survey on the future of jobs conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Vignaesvaran notes that Industry 4.0 will generate new categories of jobs, require new skill-sets and transform the way people work.

He adds that current technological trends are bringing about the change at an unprecedented rate. It is estimated that nearly 50% of subject knowledge acquired by a student in the first year of a four-year technical degree will be outdated by the time the student graduates.

“It is imperative for the Malaysian workforce to be up-skilled, reskilled and multi-skilled so that the country may advance into this new industrial age well-prepared.

“It is crucial for companies in Malaysia, especially in the private sector, to invest in training their local workforce. This would help them maintain their resilience in this new highly automated age.

“Unfortunately, of the total workforce of about 15 million, only two million employees of HRDF-registered companies are reaping the benefits of our training programmes,” he says.

As an agency mandated to catalyse the human capital development of the nation, HRDF has put several strategies in place to help its registered companies provide relevant training for their employees. HRDF has been engaging its registered employers, trainers, regulators as well as industry captains to identify and meet the future training needs of the nation.

Given that Industry 4.0 will largely affect manufacturers, HRDF is working with the Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association (MPMA) to implement trainings for plastic companies in Malaysia. The plastic industry operates in one of the most demanding manufacturing sectors and as such, output, equipment reliability and energy efficiency continue to be the main drivers for these companies.

Vignaesvaran: Workers have to equip themselves with the right tools and skills to remain relevant.
Vignaesvaran: Workers have to equip themselves with the right tools and skills to remain relevant.

“For plastics manufacturers, Industry 4.0 is a challenge and hence adopting it would allow every processing detail to be attached to a component, allowing manufacturers to have full traceability in the entire supply chain,” Vignaesvaran explains.

Since 2014, HRDF has established 21 Sectorial Training Committees (STCs) to look into relevant up-skilling and re-skilling programmes needed by the industries. In order to prepare for the new industrial age, the STCs have introduced the Industrial Based Certification Programme (INBASE) under HRDF’s Human Capital Strategic Initiatives.

INBASE’s initiatives for 2017 are based on three clusters, which are facilitating special industry human capital development, supporting the national development corridor and supporting industry development.

To encourge more employers to train their workers to handle the digitalisation of the production process, HRDF is collaborating with training provider KnowledgeCom and Penang Skills Development Centre (PSDC) to promote its initiative in National Empowerment in Certification and Training for Next Generation Workers (NECT-Gen-Industry 4.0). Five courses have been approved for this programme.

HRDF will be working with nine Centres of Excellence in Technology (CoET) by Knowledgecom. These centres will soon be enabled to deliver high-end technology certification programmes that are of Industry 4.0 standards through their partnerships with PSDC, SAP, Microsoft, Oracle and many others.

“The industry revolution will cause a lot of changes to industries, employment and even our daily lives. The way you work, cook and eat, socialise, play, travel – everything will not be the same in the next 10-15 years. So how do you manage this accelerated change? Only by re-skilling and continuously learning will machines have a tough time keeping up with you, at least in this lifetime for now,” says S T Rubaneswaran, chief executive officer of KnowledgeCom.

PSDC will facilitate its initiative in NECT-Gen-Industry 4.0 through five pillars: Big Data, cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), cyber security and vertical integration.

Staying ahead: Rubaneswaran says re-skilling and continuously learning will keep manpower ahead of machines.
Staying ahead: Rubaneswaran says re-skilling and continuously learning will keep manpower ahead of machines.

HRDF is also collaborating with the National Big Data Association to promote the development of digital talent for industry, and, to date, 28 courses have been approved.

Some examples of these courses are Data Science for Business User, SAS Certified Base Programmer + Big Data Challenges and Analysis-Driven Data and SAS Certified Predictive Modeller +Big Data Challenges and Analysis-Driven Data.

“HRDF is currently enabling funds for training programmes in ICT Adoption and Big Data for employees and prospective employees over a period of four years till year 2020 to help develop local digital talent for the industry,” says Vignaesvaran.

The agency has allocated RM203mil for three broad programmes, which are data and data professional training, empowering women through ICT and leadership data science as well as MDEC’s development programme on critical ICT skills.

In addition, to support the development of industries covered under HRDF, the agency has also approved another strategic initiative which is known as Protocol Version 6 (IPv6).

The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is very important, says Vignaesvaran, given the proliferation of broadband Internet users and broadband network in the country is increasing by the day.

Supporting the migration process of IPv6 usage began in 2004 under the 9th Malaysia Plan (9MP), with the establishment of the National IPv6 Implementation Monitoring Committee. HRDF has allocated RM5 million for courses on IPv6 to its registered employers.

HRDF is cooperating with Persatuan IPv6 Malaysia to promote its initiative in National Empowerment in Certification, Training for The Next Generation of Internet (IPv6), which is supported by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia.

With all of HRDF’s efforts and training offerings, Vignaesvaran hopes that more companies will be empowered to up-skill, re-skill and multi-skill their local labour force.

He notes that there is a need to shape a future that works for everyone by putting people first and empowering them.

In this instance, industry captains and players across all sectors must not only focus on managing the generations gap with IR4 technology breakthroughs coming into the scene, but also the types of training and development programmes for employers, employees and businesses to embark upon to maintain their resilience in this era.

“One of the biggest changes needed to prepare our workforce for the industry is that of mind-set. Employers who are hesitant to train their staff for fear of losing them to their competitors or of losing out financially have to approach training their workforce as a form of investment rather than expense.

“While there are initiatives to prepare the local workforce for Industry 4.0, undertaken by the relevant agencies and training sectors in Malaysia, these will mean nothing if the local companies and its workforce are not ready to come aboard.

“Currently, most employers would only deem the necessity of training its human resource within the related parameters of his or her job scope and not more than that. They have to look beyond this and prepare their workers for their jobs in the future,” emphasises Vignaesvaran.

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