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Navigating the Future of Work: Overcoming Workforce Challenges and Skill Gaps in Industrial Roles


Navigating the Future of Work: Overcoming Workforce Challenges and Skill Gaps in Industrial Roles
Fresh findings from Schneider Electric, a key player in the digital transformation of energy management and automation, indicate that nearly half (45%) of industrial firms foresee the emergence of new operational technology (OT) job positions primarily due to digitalization in the next three years. The research, conducted by global research leader Omdia on behalf of Schneider Electric, encompassed 407 industrial companies across various scales in regions such as western Europe, the US, China, India, and Southeast Asia.
The study underscored the magnitude of the global industrial skills shortage, with talent acquisition posing a significant challenge for more than half of the respondents (52%). Nevertheless, the research also revealed a potential remedy to this issue. In addition to job creation, a substantial majority (70%) of participants believe that digitalization can address talent shortages, emphasizing the broader impact of digital tools beyond enhancing productivity and efficiency.
Amidst the ongoing skills crisis, the industrial landscape is rapidly evolving. Sustainability objectives and the integration of advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital twins are increasingly shaping the workforce. The survey disclosed that 45% and 47%, respectively, anticipate a considerable expansion of existing job roles in response to the growing demands of industrial companies to meet environmental and social sustainability goals.
“Digitalization doesn’t just benefit productivity and overall efficiency. It’s vital for solving some of the people-centric challenges facing industrial businesses,” said Ali Haj Fraj, Senior Vice President, Digital Factory, Industrial Automation at Schneider Electric.
“There’s a real opportunity for industrial enterprises to optimize and enhance OT roles. By reducing the time spent on administrative tasks and enabling people to better fulfil their potential, we can solve many of the key challenges facing these businesses and help build a more sustainable future.”

The outlook for operational roles in the future of work
The survey's results reveal that more than half of the participants (52%) perceive talent acquisition and retention as a challenge, albeit one that can be surmounted. This suggests a shared sense of optimism among industrial businesses when it comes to overcoming workforce-related hurdles.
A significant majority (60%) anticipate changes in operational technology (OT) roles within the next three years, with 41% expecting moderate changes and 19% anticipating substantial shifts. Moreover, an overwhelming 73% agree that digitalization will markedly transform the nature of work during the same period. Concerning specific roles, 31% believe that quality-control roles will be most significantly influenced or improved by digitalization.
The survey also highlights the anticipated demand for new skills in the coming three years, particularly in areas such as robotics programming and integration (49% of respondents acknowledge lacking or having insufficient skills in this domain) and data processing, visualization, and analytics (with over 30% reporting a lack or insufficiency in these skills on average). While respondents express a commitment to investing in data processing, visualization, and analytics, robotics programming and integration are deemed only a medium priority by almost half of those surveyed.
A key recommendation stemming from the research is for industrial companies to collaborate with partners across the industrial ecosystem. These partnerships can assist in addressing technology skills deficits through solutions, training, and other capabilities, ensuring their workforce is adequately prepared for the future.
“The changing nature of the industrial workforce is, and will increasingly, necessitate investment in digitalization to empower staff and improve productivity and efficiency,” said Alex West, Senior Principal Analyst, Industrial IoT and Sustainability at Omdia.

“If they don’t, the broader and more serious longer-term impact will be on innovation and an inability to mitigate talent shortages.”