Disruptive changes always bring forward new challenges to be tackled and demand new skills to make the living in changed circumstances. But, it is often difficult to follow these demands. For example, the last industrial revolution has brought many new developments in the field of digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, IoT, self-driving vehicles, quantum computers and others. To follow the developments and to resolve new challenges workers and foremost students have to acquire new sets of skills and literacies that are becoming necessary to thrive in the fields of work and studies.
But, which are the skills that we need to overcome the challenges of automation properly? Roughly they could be divided into three sets: skills for learning and innovation; information, media and technology skills; career and life skills. Skills needed to solve contemporary and future challenges are also called skills for the 21st century. At the forefront are, for example teamwork and collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, global and cultural awareness, emotional intelligence, social skills, leaderships, etc. Those skills are and will be deeply intertwined with jobs and industries/economies of the future.
On the other hand, compared to labour markets educational systems are far less flexible in following new trends and providing students with the opportunities to gain new skills. There is the discrepancy between content-driven model of education and the world of work that is based on skills. In this regard, one of the most agile answers to the all the above mentioned changes and requirements, is establishment of the so-called FabLabs or fabrication laboratories. The first of them was founded at the MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms in 2001. Soon after that the concept of open, creative places for prototyping spread to other places and is now being present in more than 78 countries.
Slovenia got its first FabLab in 2012 (RogLab) in Ljubljana, soon after in Maribor (KreatorLab) and in the university environment (MakerLab – Faculty of electrical engineering, University of Ljubljana). Recently FabLabs have been established also in smaller towns and communities such as Slovenske Konjice – Zreče (U-Lab) and Nova Gorica (UIL Nova Gorica).
In 2017 Slovenia already got its national FabLab Slovenia Network that is coordinated by Faculty of electrical engineering, University of Ljubljana and today connects 84 partners from different sectors. The Network is the crossing point between educational and research organizations, economy, local and regional authorities, and fabrication laboratories. It is a platform where the needs of economy and society meet the educational systems and where the development of skills for project based and lifelong learning is encouraged. The Network encourages collaboration between institutions and individuals from different sectors and disciplines and invites people of different ages and companies of different sizes to join in, learn to use new technologies and solve personal and community projects.
The network aims to equip especially the young with the skills that will enable them to be competent in the world of the future. Moreover, recently it has also become a member of Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, and thus its role in the area of promotion of (digital) skills for the future has also been recognized internationally. For the network and its members creativity and digital literacy are of vital importance in order to keep up with the fast pace of changes.