Training for the Fourth Industrial Revolution: A New World of Work


By Mike Howie

Technology is ever growing, ever evolving, and ever changing the ways in which we live and work. Its progress is measured in revolutions. The first brought machines that simplified manufacturing and placed industry atop agriculture in society for the first time. The second gave us electricity and chemical synthesis, sent us riding in the first cars and planes, and dialed the first telephone call. The third witnessed the rise of nuclear power and the birth of the computer, then put men on the moon. And now we live through the fourth, full of automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, placing more computing power in the palm of a hand than most of human history has ever known.

Each revolution brings with it a change in the workforce. Jobs that once thrived die out, replaced, in some cases, by machines and robots. But new opportunities bloom at the same time. While a World Economic Forum report estimated that 75 million jobs may disappear by 2022, it also predicted that 133 million new and different jobs will emerge over the same period of time. But the transition may not be as smooth as it seems. A question remains: are displaced workers and new graduates prepared for these emerging roles?

Many employers say no. Most universities say yes, at least in regard to their own graduates. Workers themselves try to further their education and expand their skills so they may stay competitive in a tight market. The numbers look to be on the side of those who want to work: unemployment is at its lowest level in almost 50 years, and there are more than seven million unfilled jobs in the U.S.

Employers say those jobs remain unfilled because they can’t find qualified candidates. Experts, on the other hand, say employers need to take a more hands-on approach to training their own workforce if they want to fill the gap. Instead of expecting colleges and universities to produce graduates with every skill needed for a particular job, employers should find candidates with the right mix of basic skills and then teach the rest. Aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin did just that in 2018. Only half of the 14,000 people they hired had four-year degrees. They trained the rest in labs developed with universities.

Information technology company Infosys is taking a similar approach to preparing its employees for jobs of the future. In partnership with multiple universities, they created eight- to 12-week programs that help employees keep up with advances and changes in technology. With Purdue University, they created a cybersecurity program. With North Carolina State University, they created an analytics program.

By working in partnership with such credible third parties, companies can provide an easy way for employees to enroll in standardized, accredited programs and earn real credentials that help them advance in their careers. That incentive prompts more people to participate in the programs, and ultimately the company builds a more advanced workforce for itself.

And so this fourth industrial revolution, as it tugs us into a high-tech future, is changing not only our job titles but also the ways we earn them. Because a four-year college degree no longer guarantees a secure position and high pay, workers are getting creative and seeking new, more affordable ways to gain skills and set themselves apart from the competition. And because employers are struggling to find candidates fully prepared to work on day one, they’re realizing how important — and how beneficial — it is to invest in continuing education programs. Our world walks a winding path of progress and evolution, and we follow — one step at a time.

Discussion Questions

  • What jobs do you think will disappear in the future? What new ones will emerge?
  • In what industry do you want to work? How do you plan to get there?


  • Aerospace
  • Chemical Synthesis
  • Industrial Revolution