Upskilling SME workforce vital for Industry 4.0

  • The HR industry must embrace technology to effectively train the workforce
  • Upskilling and multiskilling are vital for workers to remain relevant in the future


Upskilling SME workforce vital for Industry 4.0


THE HRDF Conference & Exhibition 2017 kicked off today, signalling the start of a three-day event that includes the HRDF Trainers’ Conference, a gathering of business, thought, learning and human resource leaders and experts.

Organised by Malaysia’s Human Resources Development fund (HRDF), the agency tasked with upskilling and reskilling the nation, this is the second annual HRDF Conference & Exhibition.

The conference was officially opened by the chief development officer Wan Yon Shahima Wan Othman (pic), who said that this year’s theme – Embracing Learning Techs – is apt  as Malaysia finds itself on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Given this, trainers in the human resources industry have a monumental task ahead of them and must keep abreast with the latest technologies and innovations that affect the industry.

Wan Yon Shahima pointed out that technology is innovating quickly and can become embedded into everyday life without people even realising it, using the smartphone as an example of ubiquitous technology that people now use not so much to keep connected with others but as a computer and personal assistant.

In the same way, Industry 4.0 is bringing with it a host of technological breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of things, autonomous vehicles, nanotechnology and much more.

“This means that we as a nation have to buck up and prepare ourselves, prepare our workforce, for Industry 4.0. The stumbling block to the country wholly embracing Industry 4.0 is the local industry and workforce themselves who are not ready to take that step towards this new reality,” she said.

To prepare the nation’s human capital for the revolution, Wan Yon Shahima said that instead of training staff within the parameters of their specific job scope, employers must look at upskilling and multiskilling so that the worker is equipped to go beyond their job scope when the need arises.

For example, engineers who previously only required technical knowledge of the machine they operate would, in an Industry 4.0 environment, share their job parameters with a another machine or an AI, which means that they would need to have information technology knowledge, including cyber security knowledge, to remain relevant.

“The phrase ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ will no longer apply as workers have to be a master of several trades to remain competitive and relevant in an Industry 4.0 climate,” said Wan Yon Shahima.

This makes the role of the trainer even more crucial and challenging, she continues. Because of the new challenges and new roles that workers have to play in the Industry 4.0 environment, trainers must ensure that the quality of their training and materials are up to date and relevant to the changing needs of their trainees.

Wan Yon Shahima emphasised that because SMEs make up 98% of business in Malaysia and account for 65% of the country’s employment, any discussion of the upskilling and multiskilling of the workforce must include this market, especially as SMEs will be the businesses who are most impacted by Industry 4.0.

“Strengthening their workforce and helping them prepare for Industry 4.0 is crucial if we are to realise the goals set out in the SME Masterplan 2012-2020 and the 11th Malaysia Plan,” she said.

The SME Master plan is government’s initiative to boost SME contribution to the national gross domestic product to 41% from the current 31% and contribution to exports to 23% from the current 18% by the year 2020. The 11th Malaysia Plan’s goal is to make Malaysia a high-income developed nation with 35% of the workforce comprising skilled workers by 2020.

These goals are an enormous feat to achieve, especially considering the time constraints, said Wan Yon Shahima. To meet them, Malaysia needs to be aggressive in addressing unemployment issues, revolutionising how SMEs operate and mapping how the Malaysian workforce can fit seamlessly with new technology. All this can be achieved by investing heavily in upskilling and reskilling the workforce.

“This is where trainers come in. With just over two years to go, it is crucial that we, as HR practitioners, do our part and firmly push towards achieving this goal with well-developed and relevant training modules for the worker and workplace of tomorrow,” she said.

Because of the fact that new jobs that previously never existed are now being created, opportunities for countries to improve their human resource, upskilling and multiskilling performance abound. Wan Yon Shahima quoted the World Economic Forum’s Human Captial Report 2016, which said that technology-enabled education and the emergence of digital talent platforms will amplify people’s potential to develop and deploy their skills beyond geographic boundaries.

This means that trainers must constantly upgrade themselves to ensure they can use the training tools available and appropriately apply them to provide solutions to the challenges their trainees face in the training room and outside of it.

“We have to rethink the way we train, from the information we provide and the way in which we deliver our information to the way with engage with our trainees before, during and after the training,” she said.

“In an increasingly digitalised age, trainers are faced with a host of challenges this industry didn’t before. Keeping up to date with technological advances and trends are key to remaining relevant and to be in a position to help your trainees today and in the future.”


Related stories:

FAA moves to prepare financial services professionals for Industry 4.0

What’s Next 2017: SMEs need to accelerate development to increase digital adoption in Malaysia

Collaboration key to relevant education in Industry 4.0


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