Professor Sa'ad Sam Medhat, CEO, STEM Foundation

The convergence of technological innovations is changing the conventional wisdom as we know it. New and emerging technologies such as Autonomy, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Data Visualization, Augmented and Virtual Reality and Cloud Computing are reformatting customer and market expectations. Businesses are, and will continue to restructure their operating models and redefine their core competencies, particularly in areas of STEM-related skills, where the supply is intermittent and of varying currency and quality. Digital-centricity is the common theme that ties together technology trends. Such a theme presents a demand that makes digital a ubiquitous presence in today’s talent recruitment world.

Therefore, every sector in the economy from manufacturing to professional services and retail – can now be classified as a technology company.

This reclassification has changed forever the way in which talent acquisition experts do their job, and what candidates have come to expect.

Digital transformation in business means that organisations of all types are fighting over digital talent resulting in many hard to fill vacancies. This is particularly evident in such roles as data scientists, user experience (UEX) professionals, digital business leaders, software developers, bioelectronics, analysts skilled at statistical and predictive analytics, cybersecurity professionals, content professionals skilled at storytelling, and augmented and virtual reality designers.

Balancing the skills development of what the economy needs today and in the future, calls for a systematic approach, and a shared responsibility by all key stakeholders in a region to raise productivity and improve the level of regional GVA (Gross Value Added).

Stem Reasearch

Over one hundred businesses including multinational corporations representing a wide cross-sector of the economy were included in the survey, providing intelligence for education and training providers on areas where new curriculum should be developed.

The study, "Shaping the Future of STEM Skills", examined the impact that would be suffered by the surveyed businesses if they failed to have in place the new STEM skills and competencies needed to use and support such disruptive technologies.

Key disruptive technologies were identified through various consultations and trend assessments, including where these new and emerging technologies could have cross-sector reach. They included amongst others the following: Robotics & Automation; Internet of Things /Industrial Internet (Industry 4.0); Business Analytics; Audiology, Implants and Prosthetics; Predictive Systems; Telepresence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Remote Control of Machinery, Knowledge Automation (e.g. Telemedicine); Application of Sensors; Near Field Communications; Standards & Protocols in Communication between Smart Devices; 3D Printing (and Multi-D); Design & Visualisation; Machine to Machine Learning; Radiology and Imaging. The study ensured that the technologies selected not only held a currency in today’s business environment but also had sufficient capacity to grow in terms of their level of technological maturity, applications spread and take up.

Research findings expressed the on-going disconnect between the way in which STEM fundamentals are packaged and taught by providers with what the job market requires and the pace of technology. A change in philosophy and attitude in how education and training providers prepare and equip individuals to achieve a high degree of competence in self-directed and continuous learning was required, the study emphasised.

The pace of technology confluence (e.g. IoT, Data Analytics, Autonomy, Smart Materials) is forcing the need for a new set of multidisciplinary technical skills, and this in turn is driving the need for ‘just-in-time’ education and training. The study advocates the need for education and training providers to consider when introducing new programmes the level of ‘Intensity of Demand’ for skills in new and emerging technology areas, and not just providing sector-specific courses that, through the narrowness of the study area, are likely to have a shorter-self life and are subject to volatility of sector economic dynamics. A multi-sector assessment of market readiness with respect to the level of maturity of these new technologies and their applications will also need to be factored in.

Shaping the Future of STEM SkillsDigital transformation and the impact of technology proliferation such as AI is changing job profiles, and therefore, conventional job families are changing dramatically within a shorter horizon. It is also creating a scarcity in the labour market for digitally competent individuals. As an interim measure, many organisations are developing workforce retraining initiatives to fill many of their open technical roles faster. The study calls for new types of Conversion Courses that enable individuals to interoperate in adjacent disciplines/sectors but still use their existing specialist technical skills and competencies to underpin their newly acquired knowledge.

Professor Sa'ad Sam Medhat, CEO, STEM Foundation

Summary of key findings At a Glance:

Technology Disrupters

Standards & Protocols

Over two thirds of all respondents claimed that with the rise in smart devices the changes in standards and protocols would disrupt their businesses, delivering a 70% or higher impact.

100% of Telecom and IT respondents confirmed a 100% impact on their businesses.

90% of all Medical, 75% of all Construction and 100% of all Logistics respondents stated a 100% impact on their companies.

Industrial Internet

Over half of respondents claimed Industry 4.0 would have a 70% or higher impact on their business.

75% of the Engineering companies surveyed confirmed that Industry 4.0 would have at least a 50% impact on their business

Application of Sensors

Over half of all respondents said that the application of sensors (aligned to IoT and data analytics) would have a 70% or higher impact on their business.

With 90% of Construction and 95% of Engineering companies citing 80% or higher impact of sensor applications on their business.

Design & Visualisation

An existing technology that saw almost half of all respondents recognised a potential of 70% or higher impact on their business during the 5-year horizon.

80% of all Engineering, 90% of all Construction and 70% of all Medical companies stated that D&V technologies would have an impact of 90% or higher on their sectors.

Virtual Presence Technologies

55% of all respondents stated an impact of 70% or higher on their business by telepresence, VR and AR technologies.

95% of all Construction, 100% of all Logistics and 70% of all Engineering companies stated that telepresence, VAR & AR would have an impact of 90% or higher on their business.

Business Analytics

65% of all respondents stated 70% or higher impact on their businesses through data analytics. 48% claimed that Predictive Systems would have a 70% or higher impact on their operations over the next 5 years.

Robotics and Automation

55% of all respondents claimed robotics and automation would affect their businesses by 70% or higher. 90% of Construction, 70% Medical and 85% Logistics claimed a 90% or higher impact of robotics and automation on their operations.

Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

41% of all companies confirmed that AI would have a 70% or greater impact on their businesses.

Internet of Things

45% of all companies confirmed that the IoT would have an 80% or higher impact on their business. With all of the Medical, Logistics and ICT companies confirming 100% impact on their businesses.

Radiology & Audiology Technologies

Despite the specialist nature of these technologies, respondents indicated a significant level of business impact by these tech disrupters, with 71% of all respondents advising on a potential impact of 70% or higher.

Skills Needed

Data Analytics CaptureOver two thirds of all respondents claimed an impact of 70% or higher on their business if they couldn’t secure data capture skills for data analytics.

Data Analytics Interrogation 71% of all respondents advised of an impact of 70% or higher on their business if the requirement for data interrogation skills was not met.

Fuel Cell Technologies

Over 50% of all respondents stated an impact of 70% or higher on their businesses if they didn’t have fuel cell technology (especially Solid Oxide Fuel Cell).

90% of Automotive, Aerospace and Defence claimed an 80% or higher impact on their businesses if these specialist fuel cell capabilities were not present in their companies.

Predictive Analysis 69% of all respondents claimed an impact of 70% or higher on their business if they couldn’t secure people with skills in predictive analysis.

Modular and Off-Site Manufacture in Construction

Almost half of all respondents and 100% of Construction respondents stated a business impact of 70% or higher if modern modular construction skills were not available.

62% of Engineering and 100% of Construction respondents confirmed an 80% or higher impact on their business if Design for Manufacture and Assembly skills were not in their businesses.

New Technologies in Construction

50% of all respondents claimed a 70% or greater business impact by a lack of Building Information Modelling (BIM) skills.

100% of Construction and 90% Engineering respondents confirmed a 90% or higher impact if BIM skills were not available.

Medical and Aerial Imaging

100% of Medical respondents stated a 90% or greater impact if specialist imaging skills are not available.

90% of Construction, Transport and Defence companies cited a 70% or higher impact on their businesses if skills in aerial imaging were not acquired.

Drone Technologies

30% of all respondents claimed a 70% or higher business impact by a lack of drone design and manufacture skills.

Nearly 50% of all respondents identified a 70% or higher business impact by a lack of drone application skills.

100% of Construction respondents advised an impact of 90% or higher if drone tech (especially mapping) skills were not available.

66% of Engineering and Logistics respondents stated an 80% or greater impact on their businesses if they couldn’t secure drone mapping, maintenance and repair skills.

Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning Technologies

Over half of the respondents confirmed that a lack of Machine Learning, AI or Deep Learning programming skills would result in an impact of 70% or more on their businesses.

3D Printing Technologies

46% of respondents stated a 70% or higher business impact by a lack of 3D print skills.

33% of all respondents claimed a 70% or greater business impact if skills in material sciences were not available.

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