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May the force be with you…

How was your festive break?  I hope you managed to spend time with those you love.  And had time to time to step away from reality to refresh and recharge ahead of 2023.

I have a confession to make… I spent hours over the holiday period indulging my love of Star Wars, binge-watching the some of the latest offerings from the franchise, Andor and the Mandalorian.  And, they were great – and provided me with some escapism from everyday life.

As a prequel to a prequel, the Andor series explores the origins of Cassian Andor, a Rebel Alliance captain introduced in Rogue One.  Alongside the fact Andor stars Swedish actor, Stellan Skarsgård, I particularly enjoyed seeing – no experiencing – how far special effects have progressed since 1977’s original Star Wars film.

But that’s not the best bit for me.  I’ve always been fascinated by the robots (or droids as they’re termed in Star Wars).  I enjoy how throughout the franchise, the core characters have been accompanied by a number of much-loved robots, including C-3PO and R2-D2.  My favourite is R2-D2, he’s always so practical and helpful, with the skills needed to repair spaceships when damaged in battle (and more).

I’m going to put it out there, Star Wars isn’t Star Wars without a droid. They’re often funny, with snappy catch phrases.  They’re more often than not useful.  They often have a different range of skills to their organic lifeform companions. This holds true in Andor, Maarva Andor’s droid B2EMO (also known as Bee) is a “groundmech salvage assist unit”, primarily used for the extraction and transport of salvaged machinery.

If I think back, more often than not the Star Wars droids provide assistance – co-piloting ships and helping to fix things. In the films, organic lifeforms are still relied upon for most skilled work – more often the not, they take the lead.  As I return to the reality of work, I’ve been reflecting on whether life reflects art, or vice versa. Or a bit of both.

Off screen, there’s fear across some sectors that robots and automation will replace us.  I don’t see it like this, technology should be viewed as a tool to assist, rather than supplant, humans. Just like in the world of Star Wars, I see a future where robots mostly assist humans rather than completely replace them.

That future is here now, and set to accelerate.  Digital technologies, such as automation and AI, are disrupting how things are made.  Advances in automation technologies mean that people are increasingly working side by side with robots, smart automation and artificial intelligence.

Automation will change the shape of the manufacturing workforce forever.  Experts predict it will continue to drive productivity gains, and economic performance.  PwC talks about how technologies such as AI, robotics and other forms of ‘smart automation’ could contribute up to 14 per cent to global GDP by 2030.



Our recent insight report, Manufacturing in the Age of the Robot, considers what this means for the labour and skills landscape.




It is fair to say that the manufacturing talent market is being challenged – and transformed – around the globe.  Processes and people are adjusting to new realities.  As a result, the composition and capabilities of the manufacturing workforce are having to re-shape.  The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2025, the time spent on current tasks at work by humans and machines will be equal.  Therefore, tasks and jobs are changing; manufacturers require different capabilities and skill sets from their employees to those they needed in the past.

This is borne out in a recent report from PwC:

…new technologies like AI and robotics will create many new jobs. Some of these new jobs will relate directly to these new technologies, but most will just result from the general boost to productivity, incomes and wealth that these technologies will bring. As these additional incomes are spent, this will generate additional demand for labour and so new jobs, as such technologies have done throughout history.

With this change upon us, the sector’s workforce will need to continue to transform. As old jobs become redundant, new roles are created.  New skills will be needed.  And retraining programmes will be required to help workers shift to new roles and take on new tasks.  The sector needs to make sure jobs and associated skills keep pace with advances in automation.  As technologies advance, new jobs and career pathways will emerge.

However, it seems that the sector is not prepared.  Deloitte tells us that 75 per cent of industrial organisations identified reskilling the workforce as important or very important for their success over the next year, but only 10 per cent said they were very ready to address this trend.  Hmmmm, what can be done?

So, you know I work in the training sector, don’t you?  You don’t need a droid by your side to predict I’m going to say something about getting on the talent development bandwagon.

What skills are needed for the sector to transform?  What skills are needed for humans and robots to work together effectively and efficiently?

  • Job-specific digital skills, including computer programming and technology design, such as CAD and CAM
  • General (not job-specific) digital skills, including data analysis and safe internet browsing
  • Soft skills, including communication and analytical and critical thinking, to enable workers to adapt to different tasks in a rapidly changing technological environment

Can industry, academia and other training providers work together to make sure these skills are available, when needed?  Yes, they can.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t work in isolation, collaborate with industry and others across the training and education ecosystem to share experiences and best practice
  • Find ways to upgrade education systems to provide digital skills and critical thinking skills, alongside job-specific skills, through schools and universities
  • Provide existing workers access to training programmes, allowing them to develop the skills they need to ensure they don’t become obsolete as their roles disappear
  • Look for new approaches to talent sourcing and matching, think differently about how you’re going to fill the jobs and find the skills you need in the future
  • Build certification into your skills development programmes, the validation of skills through certification continues to have significance for professionals wherever they are on their career pathway, and for employers across the sector

These are all steps we can take now. If we don’t, there’s significant risk the sector won’t move fast enough to achieve the transformation it needs.

As for me, I’m also planning for what’s coming down the line from my favourite franchise. What does the future hold in Acolyte and in the next series of Andor?  What skills will be brought to bear by the droids?  Will they and their companions continue to work together – effectively, efficiently and with good humour?

Tomas Karlsson is the senior manager of channel services at KnowledgePoint. This means he oversees the management of outsourced extended enterprise learning programmes, recruiting and supporting global network of training providers on behalf of clients such as Autodesk.  These programmes include developing resources to support sector engagement by training network partners. The latest resources produced as part of KP’s work with Autodesk can be found here

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