The changing nature of work and Jamaica's place in the 4th Industrial Revolution

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

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Within the last decade it is believed that Jamaica, among other countries worldwide, has began to witness the changing nature of work. With aspects of the 4th Industrial Revolution having begun to manifest in workspaces, through heightened use of technologically driven operations, the country is encouraged to prepare to meet the demand for technology-based skills.

Erica Simmons, executive director of the Centre for Digital Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), said that as we go further into the revolution, change will become more disrupted.

“Ten years ago I learnt that work was changing and it was due to the work that I was doing at Siemens. It was during that time that I found that there was this massive transformation happening in the industry. We are already 10 years into the 4th Industrial Revolution, a revolution marked by the hallmark of skills disruption, wherein 35 per cent of skills has become obsolete. As a developing country, disruption is good for us, we want to be a part of it as there are opportunities for us a country,” she stated.

“The industrial revolution is the largest wealth creation opportunity in the history of our planet; so whenever we hear something like that as a developing nation, we have to listen, we have to pay attention,” she further stated.

She highlighted 12 technologies with which we must be fully engaged if we are to advance and catch up in the revolution. Some of these included: the Internet of Things (IOT), biotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and block chain.

“Through these we are seeing the integration of man and machine. The Internet of Things presents good opportunities for us to develop smart cities; to look at the way we are using energy, to look at the way people are moving around cities and to be able to develop these systems for the betterment of our countries. When looking at developing our talents we want to focus on these technologies as this is where the growth will come from,” she said.

Simmons noted that currently, with Jamaica located in the lower quadrant or beginner stage of digital maturity, there is still much work for us to do even though commendations are given for the work which has already started, especially through some programmes now being offered in the tertiary institutions of the country. She highlighted advanced engineering, engineering and design, information technology applications, digitalisation, project life cycle management and robotics as some of the skills that will advance us and place us on a level playing field with other powerful countries such as Russia, China and Brazil.

“We want to develop the skillsets of the people so that we can have higher value-added jobs coming to Jamaica. The education sector, the government, the private sector, the industry is aware of the change that is happening in the market place and knows that there is an opportunity for us as a country to move ourselves forward and to leapfrog right into the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution,” she closed in saying.

President of Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) Diane Edwards also said that while the revolution is already taking root in other foreign countries it's not fully here in Jamaica as yet, though we are on the brink and need to accelerate.

“Human-machine interface is going to change and we have to change with it in preparing ourselves for the augmentation of human endeavour through machines,” she expressed.

Referring to statistics, she said that by 2020 there is going to be a shortage of 1.4 million jobs in areas such as computing, which will not have an adequate supply of people to apply for those jobs, thereby presenting an opportunity for Jamaica.

“By 2022, which is not far away, it is projected that there will be a radical shift in the content of the jobs that we are doing now. Tasks that require human skills such as communicating and interacting, coordinating development, managing and advising, as well as reasoning and decision making are going to be automated between 30 per cent and 27 per cent, so don't think that we can be complacent in any of our jobs,” Edwards warned.

She therefore urged Jamaicans to look at disruption and technology as a gateway to wealth creation. She said that with the implementation of the Global Services Sector Project (GSSP), Jamaicans have an opportunity to acquire the skills necessary for the new jobs being created by disruptive industries.

“The GSSP presents a chance for the talent in Jamaica to elevate their already great skills, so that they can be prepared for the transformation taking place across multiple industries,” she said.


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