The Internet of Things Is About People, Not Just Things
Every major technology and business transition affects both process and people. Job roles change, some jobs are eliminated, and new jobs are created.
The transition to the Internet of Things (IoT) is no different. While automation and more efficient processes may eliminate some jobs, IoT is creating many new job opportunities—from data scientists, to remote operators, to application developers. The fact is, in the United States and Western Europe there are tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs that are not filled each year because there are not enough qualified candidates. As the IoT-based economy drives trillions of dollars in economic growth, some industries merge and new ones are created, there will be a worldwide scramble for the same IoT-capable workers.
How can you fill these new jobs?
Start by cultivating your own people. Invest in your employees to help them grow new IoT skills. This is job one for every company starting on the IoT journey. Creating an IoT-ready workforce is not a one-time training event. It is a mindset change. A new way to run your organization. A new contract between your company and your employees. The model of performing the same job that changes little for 10-20 years is gone. Today, people have to navigate a dynamic landscape where they need to reinvent themselves every three to seven years to keep up with fast-changing IoT skills. This requires a mindset of continuous learning—for both employees and companies. IoT is a journey, and so is learning the skills it requires.
Next, expand your search beyond the usual places. Of course, continue to engage with four-year colleges and universities, but also check out community colleges, and even high schools. Rockwell Automation, for example, runs a summer internship program for high-schoolers. Many IoT jobs can be performed remotely, so don’t be tied in to an arbitrary geographical location, or rigid working hours. Smart devices, accessible technologies, and ubiquitous broadband can also open up a vast untapped talent pool—roughly a billion people in the world with disabilities. An inclusive, accessible approach will bring you a greater range of qualified candidates while broadening participation in the IoT-led economy.
Finally, build relationships. Engage early and comprehensively with schools, veterans groups and industry organizations. Sponsor research, offer internships, and initiate joint projects. Consider co-developing curricula with these institutions. If you need more data scientists, partner with a college to develop such classes, then sponsor them. Be creative. Look at the example of Siemens, which needed more mechatronics experts in its North Carolina facility. So it partnered with a local community college to create a unique four-year apprenticeship program combining on-the-job training with a structured curriculum.
The good news is that the industry is coming together to address the shortage of skilled IoT workers. Recently, Cisco, Rockwell, GE and several other organizations have formed the IoT Talent Consortium—a nonprofit organization dedicated to preparing the first generation of IoT-ready workers.
And while you may be focusing on developing new skills in your existing workforce and finding new workers with IoT skills, don’t forget the valuable expertise of your long-term employees, who provide a legacy of institutional knowledge, history, and context. My father-in-law is a good example. For decades, he worked as the chief technologist at a steel mill. When he retired, the company asked him to continue as a consultant, even as new generations of managers implemented automated IoT processes. Why? Because he had a depth of practical expertise the company couldn’t afford to lose. So they tapped into his experience as the foundation of its automated decision systems.
Developing an IoT-enabled workforce is not an option—it is a must. You could implement IoT solutions and integrate them with your business processes, but if your workforce is not ready (in terms of both skill and culture), your IoT transformation will fail.
If you focus on developing new skills while preserving legacy expertise, you will soon have a workforce ready to take on the dynamic challenges of the IoT economy. Next, it’s time to put them to work solving real problems for your company, your industry, and the world. That’s the next ingredient in my recipe for IoT success—and the topic of my next blog in this series.