Working literacies, working knowledges and factories of the future

Year: 2016

Author: Farrell, Lesley

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Robotics is transforming manufacturing – reshaping not just the production process but the way products (and their associated services) are imagined, developed, produced and distributed. Increasingly, machines are doing the work that people used to do. There is new work for people – work that involves directing machines and joining up innovation and production networks – but that work is often precarious and it involves sophisticated literacy skills. In policy discussion and in public debate there is a strong argument put forward that the literacy skills of the manufacturing workforce are not keeping up with the literacy demands of the manufacturing workplace. The Australian Industry Group, for instance, reports that 93% of manufacturing employers identify low levels of workforce literacy and numeracy skills as a problem for their businesses. The Productivity Commission is concerned that nearly half Australian adults do not meet the Level 3 benchmarks of the OECD Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) They are not alone in drawing attention to the urgency of this issue. Concern about the relationship between the literacy skills of individuals and global workforces, the productivity of global companies and the success of national economies as they engage with the digital revolution known as Industry 4.0 is shared by educators, governments, businesses and the OECD. This paper takes Industry 4.0 as its starting point, focusing on the convergence of cyber physical systems, the Internet of Things and the Internet of Services and its effect on manufacturing work and workers. It examines the literacy practices implied in factories of the future and considers the fundamental challenges that digitization makes to our understanding of what constitutes working literacies in Industry 4.0.