There is a strong need for women’s full inclusion in the industrial sector, especially in the advancing digital economy and new technological environment captured by the term Industry 4.0.
Industry 4.0 will have a profound impact on the content and nature of jobs and, as a result, the education and skills required to perform them. Many analysts predict that Digitalisation and Industry 4.0 will cause a polarization of the labour force, with an increasing share of employment in high- and low-wage jobs and a decreasing share of employment in middle-wage jobs. In this scenario, as high-wage jobs will require increased digital skills, and weak education systems often fail to provide basic technical skills, digitalization and Industry 4.0 is likely to be applied successfully by a STEM-trained workforce.
STEM Education is Key
Thus, it goes without saying, that in this context STEM education is the key foundation for girls and women. Technical education and skills development at all levels, from primary school to academic education and life-long learning, are needed more than ever before. Girls and women need to be given the opportunity to get well-educated and highly trained in new technologies during the entire learning path, but also, more importantly, in the values associated with using those technologies. Further, women should be encouraged to exploit their entrepreneurial capabilities and granted better access to financial capital and markets.
Education systems must not only deliver the ability to develop new technologies, but also educate people from a very young age in STEM skills so that they understand whether, when, and where to use and apply those new technologies and also understand equally the benefits and impact they create. STEM skills at all levels of the education and lifelong learning path are significantly and positively related to labour market return. Employment opportunities for women in manufacturing and digitally intensive sectors, and empowering girls and women in digitalization and Industry 4.0 are among the most promising opportunities for lifting millions out of poverty and spurring economic growth and structural change in low- and middle-income countries.
To conclude, investments in girl’s and women’s lifelong STEM and technical education have a huge multiplier effect on women’s employability, and their personal and economic well-being, and finally enhance their participation and relevance in the entirety of global economies and societies.
About the author
Elfi Klumpp is Head of Partnership Development at Festo Didactic, a company providing equipment and solutions for technical education. She also volunteers as Ambassador for Education and Skills Development at Worlddidac, the global association of the education resources industry.