Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Education and Skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

InfoSys have released a study "Amplifying Human Potential: Education and Skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution" (18 January 2016). This presents the results of a survey of young people's attitudes to education and work. It suggests that the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" will require both technical (STEM) and soft skills. The study finds Australians less enthusiastic about this. However, just to be clear, this is not a study of tech skills, just attitudes to skills. I suggest that Australians not wanting to code mobile apps for startups shows good common sense. Your chance of earning a living this way is minimal and it is the 21st century equivalent of sewing t-shirts in a sweat shop.

Similar points to the InfoSys stydy were made by Brandenburg, Taboadela  and Vancea (2015) in describing the ERASMUS Impact Study. Employers wanted graduates who could work in multi-national teams and solve problems.

It is useful to have a grounding in STEM and business skills. But working in a start-up is much like putting all your money on a roll of the dice (except you have about ten times the chance of winning at dice). A job in a large company, with a regular pay-check is not to be turned down lightly.

Last year ANU started offering IT students the option of a start-up for their group project. Students still have the option of doing a software development project for an existing company, or government agency, but they can instead opt to start their own business. This is called "ANU TechLauncher" and works with the existing "Innovation ACT" business planning competition for Canberra's university students.

A start-up project as part of education, I suggest, is a useful learning experience so the students can experience failure in a safe environment. This is, in effect, a real world version of the fictional Kobayashi Maru test of Star Trek, where Starfleet Academy cadets are faced with a no-win situation. The chances of the student's start-up project succeeding are about 1 in 100.

Having mentored winning Innovation ACT start-up teams for a few years and assessed TechLuancher students, what struck me was that the skills they learn are just as applicable in large organizations. If you are doing IT in a large organization then you need to know how to plan, cost and pitch a project (and fail most of the time). To that end I have starting producing mobile based e-learning to help with this.


Brandenburg, U., Taboadela, O., & Vancea, M. (2015). Mobility Matters: the ERASMUS Impact Study. International Higher Education, (82), 5-7. Retrieved from

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