The Fourth Industrial Revolution

What is the Revolution?

Well, it’s a digital and data technology revolution. It’s a tech revolution that is reshaping the way we live, work, and socialise with each other.

Steam power and mechanisation drove the first industrial revolution, then electricity the second, with electronics and information technology (IT) automated production for the third. The digitisation of devices and information combined with the fusion of technologies is the catalyst to the fourth industrial revolution.

Is the Fourth Industrial Revolution a good thing?

On the one hand, technology such as the internet has enabled millions of people to access information on-demand – to learn, explore and develop a broader understanding of the world they live in. It has also enabled entrepreneurship to flourish – think of eBay stores and self-made superstars on YouTube.

However, the rate of technological change is creating skills gaps and shortages, as well as making some jobs obsolete.

Technology has transformed how people can now work from home and collaborate with teams located in other towns, countries or even continents. This presents challenges for business looking to hire the skills required in the digital age.

Artificial Intelligence delivery robots
The Co-op are one company that has trialled robot delivery.

Digital technologies changing the job market?

One of the biggest problems presented by the fourth industrial revolution is the pace at which in-demand skills change. The digital skills gap costs the UK economy £63 billion a year, which led the government to introduce the Apprenticeship Levy.

Artificial Intelligence has been talked about as a possible solution – machines and algorithms picking up the slack – but it’s still unclear how far technology can be embedded into the workplace and what effects this will have on employment.

What is clear is that the tech sector is growing 2.6 times faster than the overall economy. So, the demand for tech talent will continue to grow. The challenge for companies now is finding people with the tech and digital skills required.

Developing the skills for a tech society

There’s no doubt technology is disrupting the labour markets. As automation substitutes for labour across the entire economy, the net displacement of workers by machines might exacerbate the gap between rich and poor. On the other hand, it is also possible that the displacement of workers by technology will, in aggregate, result in a net increase in safe and rewarding jobs.

The opportunity lies in developing the required skills to take advantage of all the possibilities technology offer businesses. The apprenticeship levy is one vehicle with which this can be achieved. Companies can utilise their levy to invest in tech apprenticeships as well as upskilling existing staff.