on May 21st, 2020

The ‘future of work’ is being shaped by a powerful force; the growing adoption of online technologies and artificial intelligence in the workplace. This year has seen the world as we once knew it change rapidly, with the majority of the globe going into an unprecedented lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is easy (and expected) to feel anxious when there is so much uncertainty and change, there is an opportunity to upskill or skill shift in technology and leadership to meet the requirements of continuously evolving workplaces.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demanded that workplaces and education providers adapt to new technologies. These technologies have allowed people to work and study from home while maintaining consistent levels of communication and collaboration.

The pandemic has also painted a picture of a world where automated machines increasingly replace workers so that companies can become more efficient, ensure fiscal responsibility, and maintain productivity. For those caught up in the gig economy, it has exposed a fundamental lack of job security paired with the precarious nature of work. While governments, companies, and employees have been preparing for the disruption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for some time, this pandemic has likely accelerated advances in technology beyond what we expected.

By recognizing these challenges to the labor market, we now have an opportunity to look at the bigger picture and lay the foundations for a more resilient future, according to the World Economic Forum.

This acceleration in digitization and automation means upskilling and reskilling is necessary to ensure employability in ever-evolving workplaces. Key skills in these areas consist of coding and programming, machine learning and artificial intelligence, industrial data communications, and instrumentation, automation and process control.

At the Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT), we believe in instilling our students with cutting-edge skills that the industry demands. These skills are taught via our unique online delivery methodology, which allows students to connect with each other and their lecturer in real-time during the live and interactive webinars. State of the art technologies, such as remote laboratories and simulation software, enable students to gain practical knowledge that can be immediately applied in the workplace. While we offer formal qualifications from diplomas and advanced diplomas, through to bachelor’s and master’s degrees, we also offer three month short courses in micro-skills to help engineers future-proof themselves as the industry continues to evolve.

Being able to problem-solve in a digitized world is becoming increasingly important. Through EIT, engineers and technicians can study python programming to help them solve engineering problems, write automation scripts, and manipulate and analyze big-data.

As businesses become increasingly automated, engineers need to have a thorough understanding of the technologies used to achieve this. Industrial networking and industrial data communications systems are essential to keeping electronic and digital data transferring between devices. Therefore, it is crucial that those who work with these systems understand the components and can identify, prevent, and troubleshoot any problems. Likewise, engineers who work with systems that are becoming increasingly automated must have practical knowledge regarding the selection, installation, and commissioning of industrial instrumentation and control valves. It is also important that they have a fundamental understanding of PLCs and SCADA systems. EIT offers short courses in these areas that allow you to upskill in a practical way, so you can immediately implement what you have learned, to become more efficient at your job.

It is not only digital skills that need to be enhanced, though; it is equally important for engineers to hone their ‘human skills.

Throughout this pandemic, employers have had to work harder to show support and leadership. However, this crisis has given them the opportunity to consider their employees’ needs on a holistic level, to keep them engaged and motivated physically, mentally, and emotionally. Leadership has become increasingly important as processes have had to become streamlined to facilitate quick decision making, new technologies have been quickly introduced, and teams have had to find new ways to collaborate despite being physically apart.

According to Forbes, times like these expose true leaders as they are forced to step up and perform beyond their usual duties.

“Throughout a crisis, leadership is more important than ever. It is also clear which leadership behaviors are most effective. In the toughest times, the leaders who excel are those who communicate clearly, stay calm and strong, demonstrate empathy, think long-term and take appropriate decisive action. It is likely these difficult times will filter out leaders who are less stellar.”

As companies continue to implement new technologies and automate certain practices post-pandemic, employers and managers will be expected to continue demonstrating strong leadership, to maintain the trust and faith of their teams. EIT has created a three-month online course in Project Management for Engineers & Technicians, to help engineers lead their teams effectively and efficiently manage projects.

Now is the time to look towards our futures and consider where our careers may take us.

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