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STEM’s Response to an Ageing Workforce: Robotics and Knowledge Preservation

by Pieter Werner

The global demographic landscape is rapidly shifting. The World Health Organization projects that by 2050, the number of people aged 60 and over will reach a staggering 2.1 billion. This rise in an ageing population presents a unique challenge to the global labour market, particularly in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) sector, where seasoned professionals hold a wealth of expertise. The imminent retirement of a significant portion of this talent, often referred to as ‘baby boomers’, poses an immediate threat to the sector’s skills reservoir.

However, amid this concerning outlook, there is a beacon of hope – robotics. As the STEM world grapples with an ageing workforce, the role of robotics in mitigating the anticipated skills loss crisis becomes crucial.

A recent report by SThree titled “How the STEM World Evolves”, based on feedback from over 2,300 STEM professionals, throws light on this issue. A significant portion of these specialists, aged between 50 and 65, reveal a reluctance to job-hop, suggesting a likely transition straight into retirement. The report identifies what it terms the ‘satisfaction-importance gap’, pointing out that many seasoned STEM professionals feel a mismatch between their aspirations and their current job’s deliverables.

Interestingly, the future of robotics emerges as a solution to these challenges. As more experienced professionals inch towards retirement, there is a growing consensus about the need to harness robotics and advanced technology to ensure knowledge transfer and skill preservation. Robotics, with its potential for upskilling initiatives, could serve as a conduit for the transfer of invaluable expertise from the older generation to their younger counterparts.

Further, the report emphasizes the importance of multi-generational workforces. It suggests that older professionals can be incentivized to stay longer in their roles, not just through financial perks, but also by providing them the cognitive challenges they seek and opportunities to mentor younger colleagues. Robotics can be leveraged to bridge the generational gap, facilitating smoother and more effective mentorship programs.

Addressing the needs and aspirations of both the older and younger STEM professionals is paramount. As the world gears up to face the repercussions of an ageing population, robotics, coupled with a holistic understanding of the multi-generational workforce, can be the key to safeguarding the future of the STEM sector.

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