THE Fourth Industrial Revolution or IR4.0 is a much talked about topic by policymakers, academics and stakeholders in speeches and forums to describe how technology is revolutionising almost everything in everyday life.
But what about IR4.0, though? One of the main features of this commonly used phrase is a further deepening of the adoption of automation in various sectors, especially manufacturing.
Essentially, many automation solutions take over the jobs which people used to manually do.
The reality is that some jobs will become obsolete as IR4.0 technologies are further espoused by manufacturing companies.
The flip side to this is that the outlook for engineers is positive. Yes, technologies will replace some jobs, but new specialisations will be created along the way in many fields, most significantly in engineering.
To remain relevant and competitive, companies will need engineers who are skilled, creative and innovative enough to create, implement, manage and maintain the many solutions, technologies and systems as the business moves forward.
IR4.0 presents considerable opportunities for experienced engineers, fresh graduates who are just starting out in their career, or students who aspire to become engineers.
When smart factories are fully operational, engineers will be at the forefront of making things work. They will be the drivers behind such innovation.
As such, the world of engineering is, no doubt, at the gates of a technological revolution. Future engineers will change lives in almost every way, from work and education to entertainment, and even relationships.
A research by AmBank estimates that the electrical and electronics specialisation in the semiconductor industry alone will grow by 9.6% from this year to 2022.
Another study by Malaysian Investment Development Authority and Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International suggests that the country has the capacity to generate over 157,000 electrical and electronics jobs by the end of the year.
The possibilities, once there is complete adoption of IR4.0, are endless as the engineering sector covers mechanical, mechatronics, robotics, software and automation.
As this takes place, higher education providers must step up to offer engineering programmes that are relevant and pertinent to support IR4.0. Syllabi need to be constantly revised and revamped to address current and future conundrums posed in the world of engineering.
Universities and colleges must evaluate and assess how well their programmes can provide training and insights to graduates who are about to enter the workplace. A further and deeper look into what is needed to scale up beyond theoretical and academic teaching is also imperative to ensure students are industry-ready.
While technical skills are of utmost importance, higher learning institutions must ensure soft skills such as critical-thinking, problem-solving and leadership are integrated across all programmes.
Only through these will students be able to holistically drive IR4.0 effectively and efficiently.
For now, we can only guess what smart factories will look like. We can imagine what sort of technologies will be developed or adopted, and how important they may become when they are available.
But one thing is certain – we need engineers for this to happen.
Assistant Prof Dr Ang Chun Kit is the dean at UCSI University’s Faculty of Engineering, Technology and Built Environment. He holds a BEng (Hons) Mechatronic Engineering and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. His areas of interest include the application of artificial intelligence in biomedics, food science and robotics.
The views expressed here are the writer’s own.
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