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Source: Massey University

The i4 team (from top left clockwise): Student intern associates Madison Skaggs, Basti Todd, Frances Rankin; with research director Dr Matt Roskruge and executive director Malcolm Fraser; and student intern asssociates Brooke Maddison and Erin Thomson (centre).

A collaboration between Massey University and Microsoft is providing undergraduate communication students with the chance to help shape a digitally enhanced workforce of the future. 

Industry 4.0 Accelerator (i4) launched in February this year as a joint effort intended to help accelerate New Zealand industries into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, dubbed ‘Industry 4.0’ in reference to the current era of rapid technological advancement. It is fast becoming the new reality with many people upskilling through working remotely at home as their companies adapt their functionality during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Executive director of i4 Malcolm Fraser says i4 is exploring new ways of engaging students with enterprise via internships and team-based digital transformation projects.

Launching next month, i4’s internship programme will couple traditional academically-based internship programmes with pragmatic industry-based digital qualifications so that “students can not only provide value from day one of their internship – they can also help enterprises redefine their workplaces to create a culture where people feel connected to each other and to the organisation and want to contribute value,” he says. 

Through the partnership with Massey university, interns completing the internship paper will receive academic credit.

Education Lead at Microsoft New Zealand Anne Taylor, who is a board member of i4, says technology is driving transformation in agrifood and fibre at an incredible speed. “It is vital we move quickly to ensure the education system meets the requirements of what businesses need to be innovative. It’s especially important for the agrifood and fibre sector to remain competitive for years to come and capitalise on brighter thinking and bigger ideas.”

In its programme called ReSkill 4.0, i4 will explore how best to overcome the mismatch between workers’ current skills and the qualifications required for their jobs in the “new normal” of a world post-COVID, Mr Fraser says. ReSkill 4.0will be piloted with several Auckland businesses from May to June, with wide roll-out in the second half of 2020.

Students are the natural leaders, trend-setters and innovators in this area, Mr Fraser says. “Today’s students are the first generation – Gen Z – to be true digital natives, born between 1997 and 2012. They’ve never known life without digital technologies like smartphones and social media.” 

Communications skills key to transformation

The i4 team is made up of two directors, and five student associates who are all completing their studies at Massey. 

Mr Fraser has extensive global experience in the technology, manufacturing, engineering, and logistics sectors and “a passion for pragmatic strategy design that puts a priority on developing a modern workforce supported to achieve individual goals, in turn driving organisational success.”

Dr Matt Roskruge, Te Atiawa, Ngāti Tama, a senior lecturer in the School of Economics and Finance, is i4’s research director. His academic background is in health and population economics.

Student interns are; Madison Skaggs (creative content lead) who is completing her final year of a Bachelor of Communication, majoring in digital marketing. Passionate about creative design, from production through to editing, she is producing visual content for the i4 website.

Erin Thomson (social media and search engine optimisation (SEO) lead) specialises in social media and is developing i4’s online platforms, including maintaining the website, search engine optimisation, and taking care of insights and analytics.Erin is completing her Bachelor of Communication, majoring in marketing.

Frances Rankin (writing/public relations lead) is completing her final year of a Bachelor of Communication, majoring in public relations. Applying her public relations and communication strategy expertise, along with writing and storytelling talents, she is crafting the i4 story and written content. 

Basti Todd (student engagement lead) is engaging with students to share their voice with i4, and to ensure the programme meets their needs as emerging young professionals. Basti is completing her Bachelor of Communication majoring in expressive arts. 

Brooke Maddison (skills development lead) is completing her Bachelor of Agricultural Commerce, majoring in international agribusiness. She is working with the i4 to produce programmes to connect students to valuable upskilling opportunities through online training and internships.

What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterised by the fusion of the digital, biological, and physical worlds, as well as the growing use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, and advanced wireless technologies. It follows the First Industrial Revolution, in which water and steam power were used to mechanise production. The Second used electric power to create mass production, and the Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. The Fourth Industrial Revolution builds on the Third – the digital revolution that has been underway since the middle of the last century, according to the World Economic Forum.

Why now?

Early adoption of this 4.0 thinking and digital technologies across New Zealand industries will allow us to take full advantage of the potential offered in this new age and ensure all New Zealanders can access the benefits these technologies provide and the opportunities they create, Mr Fraser says.

The i4 project began in 2016 when Massey University, Microsoft (Asia Pacific )and The Collaborative (a not-for-profit organisation) been collaborating to explore ways to enable the digital transformation of New Zealand’s Primary Industries and Regional Economies, support sustainable and inclusive social and economic growth, and improve protection of the environment, he explains. 

“Accelerating this transition to Industry 4.0 for New Zealand is not only about these new opportunities, but also about our country’s survival in the ‘new normal’ of modern work life where individuals and communities are empowered and resilient in the face of current and future disruptions.”

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