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Anders Sandblad, an externally employed doctoral student at Combitech, is connected with University West’s research on industrial Work-Integrated Learning (WIL). Here he talks about his research on professional skills, artificial intelligence and digitalization.

Why do we need this research?
We have high expectations today for the ability of artificial intelligence and digital technology to solve various challenges in working life. I am interested in what happens to the knowledge people alone possess when work tasks are handed over to technology. I want to provide a perspective on professional skills regarding the use of digital technology. It is a perspective that has been lost in research and general discussions of ideas that revolve around digitalization. By professional skills, I mean knowledge applied to individual situations to solve the work tasks confronting someone – that is, practical knowledge.

What do you hope the research will contribute?
To take advantage of technology in the best way, we need to understand not only what can be gained, but also what we stand to lose. I hope to help us understand the nature of human professional skills and their role and development in a digitised work world and to provide insights into how we can avoid the marginalisation of this knowledge. Perhaps the thesis could also contribute to the discussion of ideas revolving around digitalization.

Does Combitech have a particular interest in this?
Combitech is a technology consulting firm with several projects at the forefront of digitalization. The company also aspires to be on the leading edge of skills development and has developed a unique concept for creating and developing employees’ practical experiences – that is, their professional skills. Combitech’s interest in research involves strengthening both of these areas, but the results can be valuable to anyone who has an interest in issues related to digitalization.

How far have you come? When will you finish the research project?
I currently am immersed in writing my thesis manuscript. If all goes as planned, I will finish around Christmas 2021.

Anything else you would like to add?
The perspectives on which my research is based come from a series of studies conducted at the Working Life Centre in the 1970s and 1980s. During this period, the development of artificial intelligence was at its peak, as it is now. The critical questions raised then have at least as much relevance today.