young engineers in training facility

How to prepare your workforce for industry 4.0 

Workforce Development

How to Prepare Your Workforce for Industry 4.0

By: Cameron Avrigean & Lou Camerlengo | July 13th, 2020

Home > Blog > How to prepare your workforce for industry 4.0 

Industry 4.0 is already here; industries are leveraging more technology than ever to boost productivity and drive growth. One of the primary drivers is automation. Whether by incorporating robotics into existing workflows or using robotic process automation to digitize and automate repetitive processes, automation has immediate impacts on every business’ bottom line. While these advances are eliminating jobs, they’re also creating them. But what are those jobs? For starters, they’re nothing like the ones they’re replacing.

young engineers

If Industry 4.0 is happening now, what was industry 3.0?

Industry 3.0 represents the bridge between Industry 2.0 (the proliferation of electricity and assembly line production) and Industry 4.0 by tapping into automation and other improvements to processes that made production safer and more efficient. Industry 3.0 represented a huge leap forward where computers and automation became integral to the way work is done. Programmable logic controllers and early robots were some of the largest developments in industry 3.0.

Robotics and automation are also most closely associated with industry 4.0, so what makes industry 4.0 different?

In industry 4.0 warehouses, assembly lines, and manufacturing facilities all make use of integrated, connected technology that enables productivity without human intervention. The robots of Industry 3.0 still required some level of human intervention, with very few processes being fully automated. Industry 4.0 has created the “smart factory” where AI and machine learning analyze data from embedded sensors throughout the “smart factory” and respond to live conditions – working as a fully autonomous whole to complete tasks.

male engineer with ipad

The core workforce problem created by Industry 4.0 lies in its efficiency. The factory floor used to employ millions - as more and more companies embrace and implement this technology; those jobs will continue to be eliminated. Just like workers in the assembly line in Industry 3.0, a 24-hour automated workforce will always be more efficient and productive than manual, human-operated processes.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though, it's actually an opportunity. Robots must be manufactured, programmed, and maintained. Smart factory data needs to be analyzed to further improve processes, and all of the digital components must be coded, QA tested, and maintained. That means new human jobs, millions of well paying ones. In fact – there’s already so many available positions there’s an immense gap between available jobs and those with the skills to fill them. This gap is expected to exceed 2.4 million positions between now and 2028.

female engineer in office

What steps can you take now to prepare your workforce? 

Industry 4.0 positions are expected to be high skill, with a strong emphasis on computer and technical literacy. But how do we fill them?

The answer lies in the 21st century version of the 3 Rs - Retain. Retrain. Recruit.

As the skills gap grows – retaining your existing employees, fostering internal mobility, and keeping the recruitment pipeline filled are the best ways to prevent the skills gap from wreaking havoc in your business.

worker with yellow hard hat and ipad


Retaining talent is a goal for all organizations and retaining experience is just as important. Workers at any level of an organization already have an intimate understanding of policies and workflows. They bring unique value to the organization and how it operates, even if their jobs are being phased out as a result of Industry 4.0. Employee value never ends at their job title. Even with changing requirements, existing skills and competencies have clear crossover potential for new positions – sometimes without necessitating further training.

Two engineers training


Retraining and reskilling should become a major focal point for all organizations. Putting this infrastructure in place is critical to the long-term health of your workforce. Without internal programs to help reskill workers for new positions, organizations will be saddled with more costs to recruit and onboard new workers. Increasing internal mobility is the key to a workforce that’s prepared to respond to the demands of Industry 4.0 and the future of work as whole.

It’s not enough to put an emphasis on professional development and reskilling programs, however. Organizations need to maximize the accessibility and number of opportunities available. Make sure that every single worker can grow and transition into new roles, and that they’re aware of the opportunities available. Not only are more skilled workforces more productive, they’re more satisfied and less likely to be impacted by industry 4.0 related job loss.

engineers in office


A robust recruiting strategy is crucial to maximizing your outputs in Industry 4.0.In order to grow beyond your current workforce and maximize the productivity gains through industry 4.0 technology, organizations will need to heavily and aggressively recruit.

A central problem remains, though – how can you recruit for positions without clearly defined skill and competency requirements? Many of the positions will are brand new, so what does that recruitment process look like?

First, organizations need to re-evaluate the characteristics of a qualified candidate. Similar to the process of evaluating and investing in training internally, choosing candidates with soft skills and competencies that are the most relevant to the job you’re recruiting for is going to be a much more effective strategy than searching for candidates with specific training and credentials. In fact – competency-based hiring has been shown to be more effective, regardless of the available talent pool.

But with an aging manufacturing workforce and a shrinking recruitment pool, organizations need to turn to alternative methods of attracting and hiring candidates. Apprenticeships are one of the most clear and effective ways to address this skill and talent shortage. Apprenticeships allow organizations to tailor training to their specific needs and tap into the talent pool directly and much earlier in a worker’s career.

engineers in training

Building an Apprenticeship Program

So how does an organization build an apprenticeship program or simply evaluate if it's the right option? For starters – like evaluating software, you need to assess if you should build or buy. Many organizations have already begun to create unique apprenticeship programs, but there are also existing programs that you can easily partner with to get qualified apprentices in the door.

In many cases, though, there are few if any programs to fill these brand-new positions that have been created as a result of industry 4.0. In that case, you’ll need to choose between creating a Registered Apprenticeship Program or an Industry-recognized Apprenticeship Programs(IRAPs). The key difference between them is that IRAPs are not time-gated and have a broad range of entities that can manage them, meaning that there is more flexibility and less barriers to program creation.

For an in-depth breakdown of each program option, check out this comparison from the U.S. Department of Labor’s workforce development website, apprenticeship.gov.

engineers in a classroom

Maximizing Value 

In order to maximize the participation and value of apprenticeships and other training programs, organizations should seek out and build relationships with education institutions. A key component of the success of apprenticeship programs is addressing the outdated perception that they’re exclusively used by a limited number of trades. Creating partnerships with education institutions helps address this dated idea by clearly linking training programs with a wide range of career pathways.

We’re proud to be working with the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute to assemble and validate a national database and map of educational programs and resources that provide the necessary skills for today's advanced manufacturing careers, with a focus on robotics.

The database will be hosted on a public website and span the full spectrum of programs from micro-credentials through PhDs that prepare U.S. citizens for careers in advanced manufacturing in both the commercial and defense sectors. These vetted educational programs will correspond to the career pathways and competencies established by the ARM Member Consortium and its partners. You can learn more about the project here.

female engineer

Your path to industry 4.0 preparedness

Jobs are being automated, and new, higher skilled positions are taking their place. To prepare your organization for Industry 4.0, organizations need to focus on the 21st century 3 Rs Retain, Retrain, and Recruit. Retain existing employees and provide them clear paths to Industry 4.0 careers. Facilitate reskilling and upskilling within your organization, making sure that retraining opportunities are being constantly communicated and are accessible.  Diversify your approach to recruitment – many Industry 4.0 jobs will require a new set of skills. Recruit and hire workers based on soft skills and competencies that will be applicable to a wide variety of tasks and create and leverage apprenticeships to bring in new workers and get them effective, on the job training.  With these ideas in mind, you can create a workforce that is prepared to address seismic shifts in the way we work, all while remaining engaged and productive.


About the Author: Cameron Avrigean

Cameron Avrigean is a Marketing Coordinator at fivestar*. Cameron is an analytics fanatic with a penchant for copywriting and social media. He works with the marketing team to create engaging content, and is looking for the next big thing. Cameron holds a B.S. in Business Management from Point Park University.

About the Author: Lou Camerlengo

As fivestar*s President, Lou seems to effortlessly drive company performance and lead business development and client retention efforts. He is involved in higher education and workforce projects and serves on multiple non-profit boards.


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