Do You Have the Skills to Succeed in the 4IR World? – Leigh-Ann Revill, CEO and Principal at Chartall Business College

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is changing the way we work by introducing new technologies that automate routine tasks. This has many benefits, including enabling workers to focus on more complex and creative work, and providing new opportunities for remote work, training, and collaboration. In labour-intensive and potentially hazardous industries like manufacturing and mining, 4IR can increase productivity, reduce incidents of injury, and improve long-term worker well-being. Technological advancements make people think that we will replace people with robots, however, the reality is that, the need for people does not disappear – but the skills required will inevitably shift and change. We need to make sure our people have the skills they need to take advantage of new opportunities as the journey through the industrial revolutions continues.

Adapt or fall behind

Automation potential driven by 4IR will enable a shift in jobs for human workers from lower to middle tiers. Jobs that can be automated could mean that some employees will lose their jobs, however, with most changes come new opportunities. South African businesses cannot shy away from adopting 4IR technologies out of fear of increasing unemployment, because the shift toward digital and automation is rapidly becoming essential for future competitiveness. If we do not adapt and adopt, then we will fall further behind on a global scale, which will have detrimental long-term economic effects.

Conversely, if we embrace 4IR, we will be able to leverage technologies such as automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) to significantly increase productivity and efficiency, to reduce costs, and improve profits. Decision-making abilities can be enhanced through the use of data-driven insights to create better products and services.

Skilling for the future

As automation increasingly replaces mundane, repetitive, and low-skill jobs, we need to ensure that we have pipelines and processes in place to nurture and grow the skills we will need to embrace the future. Some of the core skills required to build the engine behind a 4IR South Africa are software engineers, software developers, dev-ops, AI, and machine learning specialists as well as data scientists. These skills need to be embedded from a primary school level with the introduction of basic coding and robotics skills at schools, which can be further developed through high school and tertiary institutions. This will ensure a sustainable skills pool for the future.

Other skills include those that have been traditionally termed “soft-skills” but are becoming increasingly “critical-skills”, such as adaptability, coping with change and emotional intelligence. These inter-personal and self-regulation skills create resilient and flexible employees who can adapt in the ever-changing global world.

It is important to upskill and cross-skill our existing workforce to close the skills gaps that are beginning to emerge in the short term. The skills space is an extensive ecosystem, where not only are high-level skills vital, but several mid-level roles are being created, in which lower-level workers can be upskilled and cross-skilled to perform, ensuring that 4IR does not create massive unemployment.

Filling the gaps

The skills gap around high-level technology skills is a significant problem in South Africa, but it is not the only challenge we face. It is just as important to ensure that lower-level workers can continue to participate in the economy. Training and education programmes are vital, including on-the-job training in new technologies and processes, vocational training to help low-skilled workers acquire new skills in areas such as cybersecurity, data analysis, and digital marketing, online courses, learnerships, apprenticeships and mentoring programmes. This can also be augmented by government-sponsored training and education programmes or public-private partnerships to upskill our labour force for 4IR.

A turnkey employment service provider can be an invaluable asset, helping businesses to identify where training and skilling are needed and facilitate this training, offering workshops, seminars, and career counselling to help individuals stay up to date with the latest skills requirements. They can also help individuals find job opportunities by connecting them with employers who are looking for workers with the right skills and experience and provide post-employment support including mentoring, coaching, and additional training to help individuals advance in their careers. Partnering with a turnkey employment services provider can help businesses to fill in the gaps and gear themselves toward the adoption of 4IR.

The fourth-industrial revolution is a natural progression of our advancements as humans. The fifth-industrial revolution is also already on our doorstep and it’s time we start focusing on skill sets that promote agility, job-flexibility and innovation. Let’s embrace the opportunity for personal, professional, and organisational growth.