From the “Chalk Age” to Education 4.0

By Nico Fritz 
Many of us remember from our school days the horrid screech of chalk on the blackboard. In the age of digitization, such chalkboards are gradually dying out. To be fit for tomorrow’s world of work, businesses must move on from the “Chalk Age” to Education 4.0.

Today’s world of work is characterized by the increasing capabilities of information and communications technologies. In 2018 it’s no longer just the employees who are networked, but also the machines, logistics and products. This is changing the world of work and above all the teaching content of education and training – at least it should be.

As early as 2015, more than one company in four told Germany’s digital association BITKOM that entirely new apprenticeships would have to be introduced as a consequence of digitization. In the study Industrie 4.0 – Effects on education and training in the M+E industry, skilled workers, technicians and master craftsmen identified first and foremost activities such as making decisions independently, mastering processes and technologies, optimizing systems and working with machine data as important fields.

Manfred Schussmann, Head of Training at KUKA sees a need to change the existing content of vocational training regulations while retaining certain proven elements. “The framework curriculum spanning three and a half years should not be changed. Of course, certain job-specific training courses will still be required for occupations in the mechanical engineering industry. For instance, the basic welding course cannot be completely eliminated from the vocational training of a mechatronics technician. Nevertheless we need to examine the extent to which obsolete topics can be reduced in order to allow increased emphasis on matters such as data analysis, data security and data protection.”

According to the report Digitization in Education by the Swabian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), Germany is suffering a deficit of IT teachers and professionals who are up to date with the topic of “IT 4.0”. Therefore it is important to promote the development of skills in the fields of media didactics, media education and media technology for digital learning.

Training manager Schussmann has more specific plans for turning theory into practice. “There are already laptop classes in schools, the driving theory test is conducted digitally and the CCI examination center too is currently changing over to digital forms of examination. If every apprentice had a tablet, in-company chat groups could be set up, the report book could be compiled digitally and assessment forms could be sent out.”

Working time restrictions, particularly for apprentices, protection of the company’s core IT system and also issues of data protection would, however, present challenges if the tablets were taken home from work. Nevertheless, Schussmann believes that apprentices should also be able to use the tablets outside working hours. Solutions therefore still have to be found regarding this aspect. We will soon see whether this idea can actually work, and if so, how. Because a trial group of KUKA apprentices are going to be issued with tablets.

“When all is said and done we need to imagine right now what the workplace will look like in 2030 or 2040. On the basis of these predictions, the necessary skills must then be incorporated into future training models,” says Schussmann. We can be sure that in 2030 none of these skills will be taught using a chalkboard.

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