What if we massively expanded manufacturing in western European nations and no new jobs resulted? What if we repatriated industries from less developed countries and employment shrank there with no expansion of employment in the tradition-manufacturing counties?
The way we manufacture is changing in lightning speed and an assumption that more industry will create more mid-level assembly or machine operator jobs is just plain wrong.
If your memory of industry is long lines of humans operating assorted machines or packaging products from a conveyor, then it’s time you visited the new economy.
Let’s give one example. When common parts became routine in the auto industry, the neighbourhood lathe and milling machine operator fell off the truck.
In countries where spare parts are still too expensive, you can still see the local machine shop turning parts for suspensions and engine brackets. You can see small shops rebuilding engines from used parts.
Except at the McLaren and Ferrari level, that is history in the developed world. Automakers have huge parts warehouses and stock replacement everything as required.
But with additive manufacturing…3d Printers and their like, even the warehouse world is ending.
As long as the design detail of the part required is available in a computer, the repair shop will soon be able to manufacture any part required on the spot. This is NOT science fiction. It’s gathering momentum now. Boeing and GE are leading the way and watch out for Tesla. And BMW could beat them all.
That is just one industry…or 3 if we include aircraft frame makers and engine builders. But it is emerging everywhere and there are other technologies just as disruptive emerging in surprising places such as Singapore and India.
The need for TVET school graduates is shifting from masters of a narrow range of skills to applications worker who can make the information sciences do the work and who can apply invention to the workplace.
Apprenticeship based on very close links with Industry can serve the skills needs in a whole range of service industries, but a whole new range of skills is now needed for TVET graduates and for those that left school even 5 years ago but have fallen off the learning bus.
Developed countries are re-investing in training more and more quickly. Manufacturing midget Canada has revealed a requirement for a US$12 billion investment in skills training as quickly as possible.
And not in the traditional crafts but in the great disruptors coming from advanced physics labs and the science community.
Developing countries often need a different strategy. Partnerships of Industry and TVET centers can be formed with incentives and the new technology made available for training and production simultaneously.
Engineering graduates can be both appliers of technology for Industry and trainers of the new workforce as part of their job.
This is not a new concept. Europe has developed systems that support training in Industry for over a hundred years. But in many developing countries, TVET staff have accepted that learning ended when they graduated and industry is to be avoided as they are only interested in making money, not in learning.
There are sure-fire ways to change TVET attitudes, but they require some management courage and a desire to share the benefits of better performance. But it will not be done by celebrating the history of TVET as it developed in many countries from the 1960s until today.
Unless these changes are accepted by TVET management and teachers, our sector of education will lose resources and simply revert to basic skills for those unable to catch up with a changing economic and skills landscape.