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Education and training for industry 4.0: a case study of a manufacturing ecosystem

Greg Hearn (School of Design, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Penny Williams (School of Management, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Jose Hilario Pereira Rodrigues (Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Melinda Laundon (Australian Cobotics Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 8 November 2023

Issue publication date: 20 November 2023




The purpose of this paper is to explore the approaches to education and training adopted by manufacturing organisations to identify and develop a set of learning principles for the successful transition to Industry 4.0.


A case study of a manufacturing ecosystem in Queensland, Australia was undertaken, that included semi-structured interviews with a total sample of 22 manufacturing industry representatives, an analysis of secondary data including organisational documents and government reports, and embedded cases of two manufacturing organisations.


Manufacturers successfully transitioning to Industry 4.0 are distinguished by a culture which values learning, management development to understand and lead innovation, experimental learning on the job and strong links to education and training providers through internships and upskilling pathways. These four principles inform approaches to creating tailored training solutions that respond to the unique needs of diverse manufacturing organisations.

Research limitations/implications

The two case studies describe exemplary high performing companies only and not companies at earlier stages of adopting Industry 4.0. Therefore, future research could include a broader spectrum of companies across the adoption spectrum. Nevertheless, considered as a study of a total manufacturing ecosystem, there is strong alignment of views of government, industry, union and education stakeholders regarding the key factors of transition to Industry 4.0.

Practical implications

There is a strong need for leaders of manufacturing organisations to enable a broad strategy of capability development beyond simple acquisition of new technologies. Detailed consideration and resourcing of on-the-job training and experimentation, talent attraction through innovation workplace cultures and strong relationships with education providers are important.

Social implications

Given that Industry 4.0 technologies such as robotics and AI are now rapidly diffusing into other industry sectors, the research has broader implications for education and training for the future of work. These technologies could produce stark differences between efficiency versus innovation-oriented adoption strategies. Whilst the former could displace workers, the latter can open pathways for upskilling, product and process innovation and cross sector employment.


Through the ecosystem level case approach, multiple stakeholder perspectives provide triangulated insights into advanced manufacturer's education, skills and training strategies, uncovering four learning principles that underpin the approach of manufacturers successfully transitioning to Industry 4.0. The findings have practical implications for policy makers and industry bodies supporting the transition to advanced manufacturing and provide manufacturing managers with insights into successful education and skill strategies that can be adapted to specific organisational needs.



The authors acknowledge the State of Queensland (Jobs Queensland) for the use of modified excerpts from the following reports which are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) 3.0 Australia licence:

Funding: This research was funded by Jobs Queensland and supported by The Industrial Transformation Training Centre (ITTC) in Collaborative Robotics in Advanced Manufacturing (also known as the Australian Cobotics Centre) funded by the ARC's Industrial Transformation Research Program (Project ID: IC200100001).


Hearn, G., Williams, P., Rodrigues, J.H.P. and Laundon, M. (2023), "Education and training for industry 4.0: a case study of a manufacturing ecosystem", Education + Training, Vol. 65 No. 8/9, pp. 1070-1084.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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