With technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and big data disrupting the world of business, it’s becoming increasingly important for professionals to have the technical skills and awareness needed to help their companies grow.
The demand-side, from employers, is patently clear. Take big data analytics for example. According to the McKinsey Global Institute think tank, industries in the US alone need 1.5 million more data-savvy managers and analysts if they’re to benefit from the potential of big data.
In Germany, Professor Tobias Meisen heads up the Institute of Information Management in Mechanical Engineering (IMA) at RWTH Aachen, one of the leading technical universities in Europe.
Prof. Meisen has around 22 PhD candidates working with him at the institute. He’s felt the demand for hard, technical skills first-hand.
“There’s a big fight for the best students and data scientists,” he says. “People are getting approached by employers every day! That’s a big problem for us, but a big motivation for our students. They know they can get big jobs at big companies.”
In response to employer demand, RWTH Aachen’s International Academy for further education launched a series of courses on Production Technology and Industry 4.0—the current trend of automation developments in mechanical engineering—in April last year.
Open to all professionals—engineers, data and computer scientists in particular—the courses cover hot topics like artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
“If you take a look at a classic engineer or computer scientist, they’ve learned a lot through their studies about processes—about different ways to produce something—but they normally don’t know how to actually use these technologies,” Prof. Meisen explains.
“For example, with machine learning and big data analytics, just gathering the data is not the thing that makes innovation. It’s about understanding what you can do with your data, and bringing data to life in your product.
“On our courses, professionals learn how to apply these methods practically. They have a better understanding of how things work, what current standards are used in different industries, and the limits of these technologies as well.”
The idea is that what’s taught on RWTH Aachen’s Industry 4.0 courses is directly applicable to the challenges professionals face in their day-to-day work. In fact, up to 80% of RWTH Aachen professors come from industry.
Of course, soft skills—like leadership, communication, and teamwork—are still important. “With the complexity we face today, solving problems on your own is hard,” Prof. Meisen continues.
“You need multiple experts with the soft skills to work in teams, communicate with each other, and understand different languages and cultures—it isn’t getting easier for the employees of the future,” he smiles.
Employers look for the complete package. But, in today’s rapidly advancing world, understanding the key disrupting technologies—computer programming, robotics, big data analytics, AI, Industry 4.0—is key.
Speaking to BusinessBecause, Jeremy McLellan, head of learning and development at global recruitment firm Hudson, said:
“AI is really hot in the market at the moment, and it’s important to stay abreast of what’s happening, figuring out where that fits into your organization and making sure you aren’t falling behind.
“Those people coming in with those aptitudes to technology—being innovators, early adopters, and having those kinds of technical skills—are going to be super important in business going forward.”