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Growing Talent for the 4th Industrial Revolution

By Tom Vander Ark — November 29, 2017 6 min read
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How to prepare for the automation economy? The ASEAN+3 countries (southeast Asian plus China, Japan, South Korea) recently hosted a conference in Seoul in partnership with World Bank and the Korean government to answer that question.

The focus was the 4th Industrial Revolution (#4IR). If you forgot what the first three where, here’s a handy ‘splainer from Deloitte:

Harry Patrinos (@hpatrinos) leads the education practice at the World Bank for East Asia and the Pacific and acted as co-host. In his opening comments he reinforced the returns to learning for individuals and countries. He noted that automating is shifting returns to non-routine jobs requiring analytical and social skills.

Create an Innovation Agenda

Shinchul Jang, Presidential Job Committee of Korea, described an environment of slowing growth, widening income gaps, and high youth unemployment. “We are at a turning point,” said Jang. He described the need for a shared vision of an inclusive economy centered on jobs.

Partinos added a hard earned lesson that any workforce development effort must be built on a solid foundation of strong basic skills starting with early reading.

So Young Kim, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, urged a focus on science, technology and creativity in education.

Make SEL Central in Learner-Centered Environments

Pablo Ariel Acosta, a World Bank Economist in the Philippines shared an employed and employer survey which suggested that leadership skills, work, ethic, interpersonal and communications skills are the hardest to find--all ranked higher than technical or job-specific skills. He recommends incorporating social and emotional learning (SEL) into K-12 and job training objectives.

Diosdado San Antonio, Department of Education in the Philippines, described their updated K-12 approach as learner centered, competency based, culturally responsive, flexible ICT-based and global.

San Antonio summarized 21st century skills as information, media and technology skills; communication skills; learning and innovation skills; life and career skills. He shared a well developed drill down on each and said country wide professional development is supporting the incorporation of these skills into their outcome framework.

Yoonsee Park, Korea Development Institute, said SEL is very important to employment. Because their is no SEL exam there is more room for teachers to innovate. He’d like to see students exposed to more group projects to build communication and SEL skills.

Refocus HigherEd and Vocational Training

Muchtar Azis from the Ministry of Manpower in Indonesia described the process for setting

National Competency Standards and creating competency-based training programs with the goal of “Revitalizing, reorienting and rebranding vocational training.” He’d like to expand access to high quality youth apprenticeships.

In Singapore, the Minister of Skills now oversees the universities explained Lim Lai Cheng, who directs Singapore Management University. It has created an “uncomfortable tension” for university leaders who don’t want to get involved in workforce development. The move is part of a “systematic engineering of the education ecology” to better align with 4IR opportunities. She said the shift was a challenge in Singapore but anticipates it being a “Huge task for big countries like China and Malaysia.”

Jung-Woo Kim, HRD Korea, contrasted the country’s high college going rates with its low adult access to postsecondary learning. He sees the shift to a “Competency-based society with lifelong access to job training.”

Tan Sri Dr. Noorul Ainur, Ministry of Higher Education in Malaysia (@NoorulAinur), described their effort to redesign HigherEd including:


  • 2u2i: a technical training pathway including two years of university plus two years of industry apprenticeship
  • CEO Faculty: 68 corporate CEOs lecture at 20 universities
  • Integrated Cumulative Grade Point Average incorporates SEL
  • Expanded use of MOOCs with learner supports and certifications
  • Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)

Only 22% of the labor force in Vietnam has diplomas or certificates said Tran Thi Thai Ha from the Ministry of Education and Training. In addition to a focus on early childhood and elementary education, the ministry is taking steps to improve the quality of HigherEd and vocational training.

Patrinos recommends giving opportunities to workers to invest in relevant skills for the labor market that make them benefit from, and remain immune to, automation; and use evidence from labor market returns to education to implement financial innovations and use future earnings to finance higher education.

Create Public Private Partnerships

Diosdado San Antonio believes strong private sector partnerships can improve basic education. He sees partnership development as a core competency for superintendents and principals

San Antonio added that adequate national funding is key to equitable postsecondary access and that HigherEd industry partnerships are key to quality and alignment with job clusters.

Tran Thi Thai Ha said public-private partnerships are important in Vietnam. She seeks additional partners for funding new initiatives and building a stronger safety net.

Patrinos concluded that public-private partnerships are critical as countries upskill and reskill the workforce. “It’s a multi-sector, multi-ministry effort,” added Patrinos. He underscored the importance of expanding access to youth internships and apprenticeships in emerging job clusters and added that funding is the key.

World Bank President Jim Kim recently introduced the Human Capital Project (#InvestInPeople), a new effort to understand the link between investing in people and economic growth, and to accelerate financing for human capital investments.

Michael Staton, Learn Capital, described the role venture backed startups play in industry preparation including career accelerators, coding bootcamps, VR and simulations, skill verification, and job placement.

Learning Ecosystems

As we outlined in Smart Cities, my advice to the ASEAN+3 delegations was to update their graduate profile and support the development of innovative learning ecosystems with:


  • Breakthrough models: Support for new secondary and postsecondary models (like regional NGLC funds in the US, see blog/podcast)
  • Scaling networks: Because new learning models and 4IR job training is complex, encourage schools and colleges to work together in networks. Dr. Caroline Wagner, OSU, added encouragement for open sharing and quality improvement cycles.
  • Incubation: Provide initial support for teams developing new tools and new learning models. Not every region will become an EdTech hotspot, but every region needs to provide a rung or two on the ladder that will allow innovators to access international funding sources.
  • A vision of powerful learning: Ministries of education should share vivid in country examples of what the future looks like and how local teams achieved their success.

With all of the talk about Industry 4.0, Patrinos thinks it’s time for Education 4.0--a step beyond the early models of personalized learning to systems of lifelong learning driven by autonomy and purpose.

For more see

The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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