Anticipating a 4th Industrial revolution and the futures of learning: a discussion paper for Wolverhampton Learning City Region
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AbstractWhat learning is needed for the 21st Century and what changes can be made for learners today and for tomorrow? What skills, knowledge and experience are needed for jobs that do not exist yet? What institutions and relations and practices will be needed to support the school leavers, apprentices and graduates of 2020 and 2040? In a world that it is projected to change rapidly and unevenly, what role will learning have in helping anticipate and shape the future? Public sector, market, third sector leaders are faced with some critical challenges and choices. Exponential advances in genetic engineering, nanotechnology, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, graphene and additive manufacturing (3D printing) are set to constitute a 4th industrial revolution. A 4th industrial revolution is not just characterised by particular technologies but the fusions between these technologies, the capacity to redraw the lines between physical, digital, and biological domains and the potential scale, speed and spread of these changes. The breadth of skills and functions afforded by new technologies will not only have an impact on the number and type of jobs available across all sections of the job market, but also have the potential to challenge existing divisions of labour and the nature, value and meaning of work and learning. Of course, one of the major challenges and contradictions when anticipating futures, is how can one prepare for the unknown? This is a major challenge. There is no consensus as to the number of jobs that will be lost or created as a result of a 4th industrial revolution, but it is anticipated there will be no more routine jobs in the future. Investment in the development of knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) subjects is self-evident, but social, creative and critical thinking skills will be vital as they not only prove resistant to automation, but are essential to efforts to anticipate and engage with the disruption and challenges of a 4th industrial revolution. By anticipating the changes on the horizon, there is an opportunity to review and redefine the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s learners. Due to the scale of change that is anticipated it is argued that no one agency will be in a position to meet the grand challenges of a 4th industrial revolution. The level, scale and pace of change require both long-term thinking and cross-sector action. Subsequently a potential role for a nascent learning region will be to help to surface, assess and develop the future readiness of all those who live and work in the region.
CitationConnor, S., Mahoney, M. and Lewis, N. (2019) Anticipating a 4th Industrial revolution and the futures of learning: a discussion paper for Wolverhampton Learning City Region. Wolverhampton: University of Wolverhampton.
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
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