‘Fourth industrial revolution’ prompts call for urgent review of Solent work skills

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Findings from the research involving Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, Southampton Solent University and Business South were presented at an event at Trethowans law firm in Hedge End. Among those present were representatives from business, business support, local government, health, education and technology.

The dramatic pace of technological change at work has led Hampshire researchers to call for an urgent shift in how employers engage with education and skills providers.

It follows a study looking at how jobs will evolve in the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ era of robots, drones, driverless cars, 3D printing and other kinds of automation.

The research, involving Southampton Solent University, Hampshire Chamber of Commerce and Business South, examined the skills, competencies and behaviours that will be needed in the workplace over the next ten years.

Respondents included employers from high-growth sectors of the Solent economy such as advanced manufacturing, construction, marine, aerospace, the creative industries, education, transport, information technology and health and social care.

Explaining the findings, Professor Mike Wilkinson, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Southampton Solent University, said: “The fourth industrial revolution is happening right now. Automation in the workplace has moved from something evolutionary to something revolutionary. This seismic shift means that how we respond as employers and education providers is more important and urgent than ever.

“What our respondents are telling us is that the key to managing this transformation and disruption is building stronger, ongoing connections between education and employment. This is the best way to help identify the skills needed in this new era and nurture the talent of both young people and those further into their working lives.”

The research identified many areas where particular skills will increasingly be needed.  They include leadership, entrepreneurship, IT, science, maths, coaching, talent management, communications, customer service, sales and marketing.

Stewart Dunn, Chief Executive of Hampshire Chamber, said: “Businesses need to seize the opportunity of talking more with schools, colleges, universities and others in the world of education to provide input on the skills needed for the workplace.

“At the same time, learners and education providers can benefit from understanding the real world experience of employers as to how skills and competencies should be taught.”

The study also reflected some of the difficulties employers face in an era of highly mobile global talent with more people also choosing to be self-employed as freelancers and consultants.

Mr Dunn said: “Trends in employment are already making it difficult for many bosses to attract and retain people with the skills they need. The UK’s record employment levels mean it is more competitive than ever to fill skills gaps. With the reversal of the National Insurance changes announced in the Budget, it’s clear that the government has been forced to recognise the economic importance of self-employment.

“We are witnessing a time of massive change in the workplace and how we manage skills will be absolutely key to how we go forward.”

The research findings were presented to business leaders at an event at the Hedge End offices of law firm Trethowans.

Next steps include sharing the results with headteachers and other education and skills providers and focusing in on specific sector requirements with employers and business support organisations.