If you are anything like the friends and colleagues that we interviewed to ask if they know what an ethnographer is, you will probably go blank. In truth, it is a term that sounds far more exotic and oddly distant than it actually is. An ethnographer is a social scientist who studies people and cultures by observing and interacting with them in their natural environment. Ethnographers can be useful in a variety of settings, including business, education, healthcare, and government, among others.
The Up-Skill project will draw on ethnographic research to help identify how the potential for automation, united with human input, is being played out in a range of industrial, competitive and supply chain settings with the creation of detailed comparative case studies.
Here are some ways in which ethnographers will support the work of the Up-Skill project:
1. Conducting ethnographic research on the experiences of workers: Ethnographers can conduct research to understand the experiences of workers in Industry 5.0. This could involve studying the skills and knowledge needed to work with advanced technologies, as well as the impact of technological change on work practices, job roles, and job satisfaction.
2. Identifying skill gaps and training needs: Ethnographers can help identify skill gaps and training needs among workers in Industry 5.0. By studying the skills and knowledge required to work effectively in Industry 5.0, ethnographers can help identify areas where workers may need additional training or support.
3. Examining the impact of Industry 5.0 on the social dynamics of work: Ethnographers can explore the impact of Industry 5.0 on the social dynamics of work, including teamwork, collaboration, and communication. By studying how workers interact with each other and with machines in Industry 5.0, ethnographers can provide insights into how social dynamics are changing in the workplace.
4. Investigating the impact of Industry 5.0 on the gender and ethnic composition of the workforce: Ethnographers can explore how Industry 5.0 is affecting the gender and ethnic composition of the workforce. By studying the experiences of women and minority groups in Industry 5.0, ethnographers can provide insights into how these groups are faring in the changing world of work.
5. Developing recommendations for policymakers and industry leaders: Based on their research, ethnographers can develop recommendations for policymakers and industry leaders on how to address the challenges and opportunities presented by Industry 5.0. These recommendations could include initiatives to promote STEM education and training, policies to support the development and retention of skilled workers, and strategies to ensure that the benefits of Industry 5.0 are shared equitably across the workforce.
The ethnographic approach will enable the creation of a unique and detailed understanding of the ways in which artisanal skills and automation interact and are managed in each of the case studies investigated by the Up-Skill project.
Precise ethnographic methodological design will be implemented to build a detailed understanding of the products made, the technologies used to produce them, and the specific human skills deployed to produce them. The approach will also take specific account of the strategies and managerial competencies that are delivering business sustainability and growth.
The ethnographic design will highlight:
- The specific nature of the production technologies in use and the products being produced.
- The specifics of the supporting infrastructure and inputs relating to production as it is presently enacted.
- The skills required at all points of the production process and how they are distributed and combined across different roles. This includes technology-based skills as well as social skills such as work planning, innovation, and problem solving.
- The managerial competencies that are needed to bring both the material and skills elements together.
Overall, ethnographers will provide valuable insights into the implications of Industry 5.0 on the skilled workforce, helping to inform policy and practice in this rapidly changing field. We expect that their skills in observation, data collection, and analysis will shed more light into the complex social issues and help organisations develop more effective manufacturing processes, products, services, and policies.