Adopting STEM skills will pave way for Industry 4.0

By Joyce Njogu

In order to catalyze innovation, creativity and job sustainability in industry 4.0, we need to invest in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) programs.

The fourth industrial revolution is a great opportunity for Kenya to reposition itself, by reinventing the workplace. This will impact heavily on manufacturing and production, with an estimated loss of about 0.37% jobs, but an approximate gain of over 100,000 jobs in Architecture, Engineering, Computer and Mathematical functions, according to the World Economic Forum report on Future of jobs.

Our curriculum continues to push for basic education that seeks to promote equality and security even among the most vulnerable in society, but it is through our understanding of the importance of adopting modern skills that we will align ourselves with the emerging global trends.

Reengineering the education curriculum to boost the uptake of industry jobs particularly within STEM is paramount in boosting productivity and improving our global competitiveness.

Manufacturing remains the biggest platform for value add job creation, and is estimated to create about 1.3 million jobs under the President’s Big Four Agenda by 2022, but it is impossible to achieve this with the current skills gap in the job market. With just over 20 per cent of students in institutions of higher learning in STEM courses, it is likely that there will be a higher demand for industrial specialized skills as we drift into industry 4.0

The Asian Tiger Economies such as China, Malaysia, India and Singapore have, in a quest to build their economies, focused on offering  STEM programmes in their institutions. China, in particular, observed a remarkable increase in the number of STEM graduates over the past three decades, providing the country with an abundant Science & Technology workforce.

According to National Science Foundation, 31% of China’s bachelor’s degrees are awarded in engineering, highlighting further that STEM education is encouraged and valued. Forbes has also recognized that China’s push for a STEM-educated human capital has led to it becoming a world-class leader in emerging tech disciplines and innovations in manufacturing, therefore building their competitiveness and establishing a niche in the global market.

Reducing the current unemployment rate, which sits at 40% (KNBS) can be achieved by promoting the uptake of STEM subjects. It is estimated that STEM graduates are more likely to get internship opportunities, as industries seek to align themselves with emerging trends. A survey by LinkedIn indicated that a good number of the most promising future jobs will rely heavily on STEM skills. Yet the current scenario depicts that, overall, STEM graduates are still few.

A manufacturing base that is strong, efficient and innovative is essential to our country’s economic future. Even President Uhuru Kenyatta has noted the value of education to the growth of the economy, and recently emphasized the need to integrate science and technology in the education curriculum at the Young Scientists Kenya (YSK) exhibition.

Kenya industries now more than ever need to catch up with modern manufacturing trends. Advancements in design, output, market and competition will continue to challenge our productivity if we hold on to obsolete industry skills.

We need to inspire the young people to pursue STEM oriented subjects.  This will not only help mitigate skills shortages in the future but will also help in realizing our aspirations in becoming an industrialized country with sufficient employment opportunities.

STEM education will also encourage the increase in critical thinking skilled workforce needed for the growth of the economy during the industrial revolution.

The writer is the Head of KAM Consulting at Kenya Association of Manufacturers. She can be reached at info@kam.co.ke.

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