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Some call it the rise of the robots. Others refer to the age of automation or the fourth industrial revolution.

Regardless of what we call it, the increasing pace of technological change and the effect it has on our lives, particularly in the workplace, is gaining greater attention amongst business leaders, policy makers and the public in general.

Preparing for the future has become a complex challenge. The First Minister has talked of a Scotland that becomes “the inventor and the producer, not just a consumer, of the innovations that will shape the lives of our children and grandchildren,” but there are important building blocks that need to be in place for this to happen.

To create a fair and prosperous Scotland requires a high performing economy, driven by high performing individuals and businesses. A focus on human capital and the skills of our citizens plays a critical role. Our workforce needs constantly developing skills, knowledge and capabilities not only to cope with the change but to thrive in it - and more so to create and exploit new technologies, rather than standing back and be swept along by the change.

As a society, we need to start to place a greater value on the types of skills that make us human and set us apart from machines. This includes personal skills like the ability to learn and re-learn as our working environment changes, or the ability to select and critically analyse what’s important in an age of information overload.

It includes social and emotional abilities like empathy, collaboration and leadership which allow us to connect globally, making use of diverse perspectives. It also includes creativity and curiosity which help us innovate. At one end of a spectrum, this supports us to develop flexible, growth mindsets that promote well-being, whilst at the other end, it helps us find solutions to complex global challenges.

"Our workforce needs constantly developing skills, knowledge and capabilities not only to cope with the change but to thrive in it."

Damien Yeates

Apprenticeships and other forms of work-based learning allow these skills to be developed where they are more easily learned – experientially in the workplace. This will become increasingly important as evolving job roles require regular upskilling of the existing workforce. SDS has begun a programme of work with partners to trial and test ways of embedding these skills with the development of our new Graduate Apprenticeships.

One of the first Graduate Apprenticeships to test this new approach will be in Data Science, already ranking high in new and emerging demands from employers. SDS will pilot a ground-breaking new programme in a partnership between industry and two of Scotland’s leading universities.

Facilitated by SDS, the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews will work with global accounting and business services firm PwC to develop this new Graduate Apprenticeship opportunity.

The new Data Science Graduate Apprenticeship will start in September and offer up to 20 places for individuals to gain valuable industry skills and practical experience while attaining a degree from one of these world-renowned universities. 

Skills Development Scotland’s ‘Skills for the Future’ publication sets out how this fourth industrial revolution is an opportunity to recognise the skills that people need to thrive in this new and fast-paced environment as well as how the system should respond to deliver this.

For further information on the fourth industrial revolution and the future of jobs and industry you can find the “Skills for the Future” paper by Skills Development Scotland and related videos here.

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