In UN’OSSERVAZIONE 4.0, we discuss about what the Industry 4.0 is and which are the emergent technologies related to this new industrial paradigm. In this B4DS Notebook, we would show the impact of the so-called Industry 4.0 on the labour market. Are you aligned with the 4.0 skills?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is more than a disruptive technological evolution. It is also a social and economic transformation of the world as we used to know. Moreover, the COVID-19 crisis increased the digital pressure of the Industry 4.0 era.

The technological drivers of the transformation are smart manufacturing technologies (e.g., robots and additive manufacturing), augmented reality, Big Data and cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), and integration of electronics and computer science in machine-to-machine communication.

While in the social and economic perspective, the Industry 4.0 calls for an upgrade of the skills and competences for the professions in all the industries to properly exploit the new 4.0 technologies and build resilient enterprises. Therefore, it is necessary to face the technical, social, and economic changes addressing the needs of knowledge and skills.

Anyway, the fast technological evolution is in contrast with the low change rate of the training and education systems. In fact, these two different speeds cause gaps between supply and demand, which need to be filled. The areas related to the technological transformation requires new training courses from additive manufacturing to Artificial Intelligence, from data analytics to cyber security, to name a few. Some of the most notable initiatives regard new courses in the STEM departments that concern data science, additive manufacturing, predictive maintenance, cyber security, and innovative methods and processes for healthcare. Anyway, the goal is to make the use of 4.0 technologies accessible to everyone, and so to enable the upgrade also for the humanities departments, encouraging a transversal educational and training perspective.

So, one of the challenges of a such scenario is timely understand the skills needs of the future workforce to properly support the transformation in the labour market and the updated of the educational systems. This leads to some questions:

What is the current scenario of Industry 4.0 skills needs? What are the emerging skills on the job landscape?

What are the skills offered in the educational systems?

How to properly address this transformation?

Are there any gap to be filled?

Is it possible measure the alignment between labour market and educational systems?

An innovative way to approach these issues is given by Advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques. NLP includes various methods for automatic extraction information from different written resources. It includes several disciplines, interrelated each other, such as linguistics, computer science, and artificial intelligence. A key element of NLP techniques is discovering the relationships among the extracted information that leads to new facts or new hypotheses to be explored further by more conventional means of experimentation. In this sense, our research team used NLP methodology to examine the radical changes produced by Industry 4.0 in the existing social and economic structures that characterise the global market. One analysis was related to detect new professional archetypes in the different business area of the organization that are having a great impact on the value chain (Fareri, S., et al., 2018). Another example of this kind of approach is SkillNER (Fareri, S., et al., 2021), a Named Entity Recognition (NER) tool to identify the soft-skills in unstructured texts.

In this notebook we want to explore the use of advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques and text analysis tools to understand the current scenario of professional skills and to detect the mix of skills and knowledge provided in the education systems.

For what concern the labour market, nowadays, the jobs search engines are widespread in the area of recruitment. Those are websites that contains employer reviews, career and job-search advice, and describe different job descriptions or employers, narrowing the distance between jobseekers and employers. Some of these sites can be all-purpose generalist job boards, encompassing job posting for all industries, from manufacturing to health care, from automotive to software, and even in the non-governmental sector. While other websites are dedicated to specific sector or to particular audiences or geographies.

Therefore, it is possible to use these platform to collect information about the labour market needs. In particular, we chose Indeed. It is a job search engine launched in November 2004; the site contains a collection of job postings from thousands of websites, including job boards, newspapers, associations and private company employment pages.

For the education area, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are bringing a huge value in training in the context of Industry 4.0. In fact, on these open-access online platforms, on one hand, the learners could access the material directly and learn from it, on the other hand the educators could use the material as part of their own teaching, as produced or by amending it themselves. These courses are a form of distance learning, that is a broader category of educational activities facilitated by a wide range of media, including letter correspondence, radio, TV, telephone, or the Internet, where students are separated by distance and by time. The MOOCs allow (i) a better cost/revenue ratio, (ii) the ability to access to a wide range of institutions and University all over the world, (ii) the flexibility in choosing the study programmes, (iv) an innovative way for knowledge dissemination and last but not least (v) the democratization of knowledge and education since everyone could use these platforms (Kaplan et al., 2016). The rising demand for specialized workers with cross-functional competencies, especially in the area of data science, has given rise to a proliferation of this type of course. The most popular providers of MOOC include the following: edx, Coursera, DataCamp, Udemy, Udacity and Lynda.

So, we can use Udemy to gather information about training courses. It is a leading global marketplace for teaching and learning, founded in 2010, that offers thousand of courses in over 65 languages. Let us first select a knowledge domain, then automatically extract the skills and knowledge expressed in job advertisements and in course descriptions and finally visualize the results.

We chose “DATA VISUALIZATION” as knowledge domain. It is an interdisciplinary field that deals with the graphic representation of data that are becoming very popular in the age of Big Data, to enhance the communication of the informative content of the big data exploited in the analysis.

We find 241 job vacancies on Indeed about data visualization in Italy and  670 courses available on Udemy about data visualization.

We apply the NLP techniques to identify the skills in the textual description, using a lexicon of skills (ability to perform a given task in a job ) and knowledge (theoretical background necessary for a job) developed in our research group.

In the following images we can see an extract from the results. On the left there is the original text (from the job advertisement in Figure 1 or from the course description in Figure 2). These texts have been processed by an algorithm that mimic the human reading using the skills lexicon as a vocabulary to distinguish the relevant information. On the right there is the list of skills identified in the text. The colours link the original expression with the extracted skills.

Analysing a great amount of job vacancies and courses and measuring the distance between the two lists of skills it is possible to infer some interesting insight about the alignment or the gap between labour market and educational area.

Figure 1. Example of skills extraction in the job vacancies using NLP techniques.


Figure 2. Example of skills extraction in the course descriptions using NLP techniques.

We are developing a scientific research addressing this topic with the purpose to detect the objective, timely and data-driven evidence about this complex issue. Moreover, we exploited a similar approach in a project realized in collaboration with the Tuscany Region about the alignment between labour market and education to support the up-skilling of the regional workforce (“Integrazione continua di sorgenti eterogenee per massimizzare il valore e l’impiego di Toscana Open Research”, i.e. “Continuous integration of heterogeneous sources to maximize the value and use of Toscana Open Research”).

In conclusion, the continuous skills upgrade of the workforce in a lifelong learning perspective is an imperative element for any company to remain competitive in a rapidly changing market. This adjustment cannot be effective or efficient, unless it is supported by a strong education and training system, able to keep the pace of the technological evolution and face the challenges of the labour market.

A text analysis, such the one presented in this notebook, is a valuable tool to continuously monitor the fast-changing needs in the Industry 4.0 era and so to support the digital transformation in a digital way.

By Irene Spada e Vito Giordano


Fareri, S., Chiarello, F., Coli, E., Teloni, D., Dente, G., & Fantoni, G. (2018). Workers 4.0: skills, profiles and jobs in different business functions. Economy, employment and skills: European, regional and global perspectives in an age of uncertainty, 95.

Fareri, S., Melluso, N., Chiarello, F., & Fantoni, G. (2021). SkillNER: Mining and Mapping Soft Skills from any Text. arXiv preprint arXiv:2101.11431.