Future Career Innovation

Preparing for Tomorrow’s Breakbulk World Today

By Mandar Apte, TechnipFMC

Technology is changing the face of industry on an unimaginable level. Many new job opportunities that have not been studied for are appearing on the horizon. How do you study for something that does not exist?

I put this question to the audience when I moderated a session at Breakbulk Middle East earlier this year. For me, it’s a real pleasure to attend breakbulk and project cargo industry events such as those: they’re a true melting pot of inspiring, talented and dedicated people who help make the sector the success story it is today.

However, our world is changing, and if we don’t get things right in attracting, educating and retaining breakbulk and project cargo talent, we risk jeopardizing the industry that we all know and love.

According to an article published last year by Forbes, the world is about to head into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR, or Industry 4.0). Today’s breakbulk and project cargo sector are connected by a combination of technologies — collectively referred to as “cyber-physical systems” — which is bringing together physical, digital and biological schools of thought.

Our industry is also being distinguished by breakthroughs in several fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, Internet of Things, fifth-generation wireless technology, data manufacturing, quantum computing, industrial IoT, biotechnology, blockchain, 3D printing and fully automated vehicles — fields I’m sure nearly all of which didn’t exist when I became an engineer. Emerging technologies from sectors such as IoT, AI, big data processing, robotics, 3D printing and wearables have been identified as very important ones in Industry 4.0.

Impact on Careers

All of this new technology has implications for careers at a time when the working world is very different from what it used to be. Whereas the previous generation had just one career during their lifetime, today’s statistics show that the average person will change career five to seven times throughout their working life.

One of the areas that technology affects is the establishment and elimination of employment opportunities.
We need to prepare tomorrow’s breakbulk and project cargo workforce for uncertainty. Future industry players need to be adaptable, as it is highly likely that those going through the education system now will end up in jobs that do not currently exist.

We’ve also got to bridge the gap between education and work. With one global employer’s survey finding that many felt graduates lacked multi-level skills and were unprepared for the working world, we must connect employment and education.

Though preparing for uncertainty may seem like a contradiction in terms, there are ways we can help make future industry personnel more ready to tackle the challenges of tomorrow. For example, all the skills viewed as the top 10 job skills are soft ones:
• Emotional intelligence.
• Critical thinking.
• Creativity.
• People management.
• Negotiation.
• Coordination with others.
• Complex problem-solving.
• Judgment and decision-making.
• Service orientation.
• Cognitive flexibility.

We can thus help school future industry figures in these attributes right now, whether they’re already employed or still in education. Students should be treated like future employees. Equip and enable them for rapid global changes so that they’re adaptable when they’re working in the sector.

Our biggest challenge is preparing our workforce for jobs that do not exist today. That requires looking both within and outside our organizations to ensure that as much preparation as possible is given to our personnel — both present and future. 

Mandar Apte is project manager at TechnipFMC, which offers project services for the energy sector.

Image credit: Shutterstock