Industry 4.0 and the Future of Skills

29 July 2019 | Education
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A visitor at SFF@NUS reading the prospectus for the newly launched Master of Science in Industry 4.0 programme

As the world enters the era of Industry 4.0, the role of Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) to impart knowledge and skills is set to grow in importance, serving not only youth but also mature workers seeking to adapt to the changing nature of work. That was the key message at the SkillsFuture Festival @ NUS (SFF@NUS), themed “Industry 4.0 and the Future of Skills” on 24 July.

In his welcome address, NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye emphasised NUS’ support for the government’s SkillsFuture movement, which will allow every Singaporean to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Industry 4.0. “Previously, during the dot-com era, we would look on and marvel in amazement, from a distance, at the technology giants like eBay, Amazon, Apple and Google bursting into the scenes… But today, there is innovation right here in Asia; Asia is also home to industries, markets and consumers. So we must all be ready to participate in this growth,” he said.

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Prof Tan giving the opening address at SFF@NUS

In line with this, NUS launched its new Master of Science in Industry 4.0 degree — an interdisciplinary graduate degree programme that will help workers keep pace with digital transformation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The programme, which will admit its first intake in August 2019, taps on the deep expertise of five NUS academic units in Industry 4.0 — NUS Engineering, NUS Science, the Institute of Systems Science at NUS (NUS-ISS), NUS Computing and the NUS School of Continuing and Lifelong Education. The curriculum is specifically designed in accordance with the Singapore Economic Development board’s Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index and will cover areas such as data analytics, digital infrastructure and transformation systems, and include an industrial attachment.

Industry 4.0 is not about replacing existing workers with machines or new workers. An essential component is the training of existing workers to equip them with the skills to use the new technologies. Worker training and skills upgrading must go hand in hand with enterprise transformation and adoption of technology.

Announcing the launch, Guest-of-Honour Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Education Mr Chee Hong Tat said, “Industry 4.0 is not about replacing existing workers with machines or new workers. An essential component is the training of existing workers to equip them with the skills to use the new technologies. Worker training and skills upgrading must go hand in hand with enterprise transformation and adoption of technology.”

Mr Chee also announced NUS’ expanded partnerships with organisations under the “All-You-Can-Learn” model that provides customised training modules for these organisations to upskill or reskill staff. Five organisations — The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Institute for Human Resource Professionals, Korn Ferry, National University Health System and United Overseas Bank — signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with NUS at the event, committing to sending their staff for industry-relevant courses.

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Representatives from NUS and five organisations signing MOUs to expand its learning partnerships

MOUs were also signed between NUS-ISS and Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) and Temasek Polytechnic (TP) as part of the NUS-ISS Stackable Programmes. This post-diploma programme builds on the skills and knowledge the participants acquired at the polytechnics to provide a smoother and more structured transition into the workforce. Students who complete the relevant modules from the Specialist Diploma in Business & Decision Analytics at NP and the Specialist Diploma in Big Data and Analytics at TP can stack them towards the NUS-ISS Master of Technology programme in the future. 

SFF@NUS featured an exhibition of Industry 4.0 initiatives and various SkillsFuture programmes offered by all 12 local IHLs, as well as a symposium, workshops and masterclasses. One exhibit was the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine’s Virtual Interactive Human Anatomy, the world’s first unique virtual human cadaver that medical students perform dissections on using Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and hand-held controllers. NUS Computing showcased its Technodancer game — a modern-day “Dance Dance Revolution” enhanced with VR.

The Festival was attended by over 3,400 people.