Are We Ready For The Fourth Industrial Revolution? - Business Media MAGS

Sunday Times Skills

Are We Ready For The Fourth Industrial Revolution?

It is more important than ever before to skill the youth in 4IR technologies, and to reskill those whose talents are becoming redundant. By Rodney Weidemann. 

The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) represents a new era of innovation in technology and disruptive technologies that are already significantly impacting how we work, live, play and govern.

The 4IR encompasses technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, cloud computing and the internet of things (IoT), which are combined in various forms to provide us with interconnected digital devices, intelligent robots and autonomous vehicles, among others.

The real question is whether or not SA has adequate skills for this, and if not, how the country aims to train and upskill its people in 4IR capabilities. Gerhard de Beer, managing executive at training organisation Mecer Inter-Ed, says the company believes that most organisations’ preparedness for the 4IR is grossly understated.

“When one looks outside of the private business sector, much more can still be done, particularly at school level where government needs to ensure that children are exposed to digital technology at as early an age as possible,” he says.

“Outside the school arena, and in conjunction with the government’s National Skills Development Plan, many private sector training programmes – with a plethora of content that maps to all the popular 4IR topics – are available.”

Most reputable IT training companies can provide a customised solution to suit almost every training need, he continues. The Media, Information and Communications SETA is busy updating its registered qualifications to include skills programmes and learnerships that address these sought-after skills.

“I think the most important factor to consider when choosing a training partner is to make sure of its official learning partner status. IT training companies need to be accredited by the various IT houses whose courses they offer,” de Beer adds.

Linking theory with practical experience 

While there are many students who do degrees at university, there is seldom an effective bridge between this theory and the actual workplace, says Christian Visser, technical lead at training provider Torque IT.

“It is important to be able to link what you learn in class to the actual workplace, which enables learners to move beyond simple theory. Any youngster learning 4IR skills must also be taught entrepreneurial abilities – because high unemployment in SA means that the ability to leverage these skills to start your own business will be critical,” he says.

“To get the best out of 4IR skills training, the country must make sure that initiatives combine training with workplace experience – this is something the private sector is well aware of – and greater efforts are made to ensure that there is always an element of workplace exposure.”

Any initiatives SA can put in place to train the youth in 4IR skills will be vital, adds Visser, as the country needs to be in a position to benefit from international opportunities that may present themselves. “However, without these skills, we will be unable to grasp these opportunities,” he explains.

“The advantage of training youngsters in 4IR skills is that they learn fast and, being from the digital generation, already have an almost instinctive grasp of many of the technologies. However, we must remember that providing skills to the youth is only one facet of this: we must also ensure that experienced individuals whose skills are becoming redundant are reskilled with relevant digital training.

“Perhaps most crucially, training, upskilling and reskilling in 4IR technologies must be ongoing. No matter where you begin your learning journey, once started, it never ends. The current speed of technology evolution means that to keep pace with change, you need to constantly focus on learning and developing new skills,” concludes Visser.

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