Benefits Of An Educated Workforce In The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Mike Lennon

In June 1978, I stood on the yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. In the 20 years that followed, my service placed me in a variety of roles and locations: at a Marine barracks providing physical security for a naval air station, in a rifle platoon as part of a deployed infantry battalion, as a drill instructor at a recruit depot, in a special operations capable Marine Expeditionary Unit in Iraq, at the service headquarters, and in the Pentagon. Since 1998, I have worked for two leading technology companies, managing major accounts and working in product development supporting the global defense community.

In my experience, I have seen great organizations and average organizations. The single element that is consistently present in great organizations is the commitment to training and education.

What is the current worldwide situation?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway, and it is driving the need for a more technology-savvy workforce. That means today’s workplace needs more people with knowledge of the digital, physical, and biological domains and the intersections of those domains. Technology is changing constantly and rapidly, and it will permeate jobs, create new jobs, and eliminate jobs.

Recognizing this reality, the Marine Corps is experimenting with introducing a “systems operator” to its fundamental combat element – the rifle squad. This document focuses primarily on aspects of human capability and knowledge, with a focus on the digital domain and where the digital domain intersects with the physical and biological.

At the outset, in addition to the obvious technical domains, technical knowledge must be spread widely into functional domains, like contracting and research communities.

“Industrial revolutions have fundamentally altered the way we live, work, and relate to one another, and we are on the brink of another revolution. The Fourth Industrial Revolution holds great promise for how we live and govern. It is fueled by data and characterized by a fusion of technologies that will blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. Fulfillment of that promise depends on how Governments adapt to the coming wave of technology.” -Govini, 2018

Fulfillment of that promise depends on the sufficient number of properly educated workers who will develop, field, and employ these revolutionary products. In the government space, consider the following facts (Govini, 2018):

  • The federal government is showing signs of adaptation, as it spent $43.9 billion in FY17 on technologies and services related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  • The federal government is transforming most through the digital sphere.
  • Digital technologies based on computer hardware, software, and networks are not new. However, the ways in which they are being integrated with the physical and biological spheres for real-time decision-making and automation is new.
  • Cloud spending grew by 34.9 percent in FY17 to $4B, and cloud migration services grew by 41.9 percent in FY17, to $694.3 million.

The foregoing, coupled with recent federal laws such as the Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT) and the establishment of the Army Futures Command and Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), show that government organizations are adapting to this revolution.

The need for an educated workforce and how to get it

An immediate benefit can be gained or expanded where technology industries and customers intersect with academia and applied research organizations. For example, many technology companies have academic relationships with colleges and universities. Indeed, university alliance programs are quite common. These programs provide colleges and universities with software and systems (usually in the cloud or as a managed service), along with instructional materials related to that software and access to others in the program (user communities).

For example:

  • Central Michigan University provides a substantial number of courses, degree- and certificate-producing programs, and an online MBA, all focused on business processes and analytics enabled within an SAP ERP environment.
  • Virginia State University offers courses focused on SAP ERP, cloud, and machine learning, including curricula sponsored within its engineering department. The university’s partnership and proximity to the U. S. Army make it an interesting case study of how the government can work with a local college or university to advance the knowledge required by students working in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. These programs can be tailored to meet local needs; in other words, certificate programs can be created to suit the availability and needs of the students.

In summary

An educated workforce attracts businesses to a region or a country or an employer, and the prospect of education may draw some candidates to and industry, or government/military service. More than any other industry, technology hubs create both direct and indirect jobs. An educated workforce and the educational mechanisms to create and sustain that workforce enable economic security, promote productivity and morale impacts for a community, and provide the ability to understand, integrate, and utilize recent technologies.

Government and military organizations and other industries should identify colleges and universities with geographic convenience or a web presence, or where their members and employees already attend educational programs. Once identified, government or commercial customers/businesses should discuss educational needs with that college or university and identify existing or needed programs and gaps in those programs.

For example, ERP Certificate/TERP10 and cyber education can create a “push/pull” of need and satisfaction between the requesting community and the educational institution, creating a workforce capable of operating and leading during the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Written by Mike Lennon, with help from Tom Sisti and Matthias Ledwon.

For more on this topic, see We Must Reverse These Trends To Transform America’s Future Workforce.


Mike Lennon

About Mike Lennon

Mike Lennon is an industry expert in the Defense and Security Industry team at SAP. He has over 20 years of experience in the technology industry, as well as 20 years of active duty service in the U.S. Marines as an enlisted infantryman, attack helicopter pilot, and data systems engineer.