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Advancing human potential and skills development

Business Day / 28 SEPTEMBER 2017 - 01:00 / AHMED SHAIKH

The world is at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution, and its innovative processes are spawning major disruptions. These will have enormous ramifications for almost all aspects of our working lives. The way we work, the skills we need to thrive in our jobs and the trajectories of our careers are rapidly evolving. These changes, which are largely driven by technological innovation, demographics, shifting business models and the nature of work, are significantly altering the skills demanded by the labour market.

The convergence of technology is changing the world as we understand it. The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, data visualisation and mixed-mode realities are creating a need for skills once unimagined. They are disrupting the business world and transforming consumer experiences.

Digital-centricity is the term that ties these new disrupters together. The huge reliance on "everything digital" has placed huge demands on the job recruitment market, with companies fighting over the best digital talent. A lack of education and skills in these key technologies is holding back companies that want to grow.


A recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development report indicates that there is a critical mismatch between current skills and the qualifications required for work in the digital era, and that the skills demanded for jobs across industries will change drastically by 2020.

The report further suggests that these skills mismatches have increased the need for skilling, reskilling and upskilling throughout a person’s career.

Another study, "Shaping the Future of Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] Skills" found that, fuelled by fast-growth technology disrupters, a rapid and seismic shift is happening in the demand for technology education and skills, but the appropriate technology education and skills are lacking.

Relying on these research outcomes, it would seem that the major stumbling block for companies wanting to unleash the power of the fourth industrial revolution is a lack of technical skills such as data analytics and programming proficiency, confirming that there is an ongoing disconnect between what is being taught by education providers and the needs of employers as determined by the pace of technology. Moreover, it is not just the pace of technology but the confluence of technologies that is creating the need for a new set of multidisciplinary technical skills.

Despite the need for adult reskilling, opportunities for broad-based and inclusive reskilling are not available in most countries at the appropriate levels of access, quality and scale. While substantial progress has been made in access to low-cost digital training across many developed countries, there is still a need for a cohesive system that addresses the needs of learners, dedicates sufficient resources, and brings together the right stakeholders in providing applied learning opportunities.

It is time to invest in enhancing the skills and capacities of all segments of our workforce. The short and decreasing shelf-life of today’s skills, coupled with the quantity and quality of current adult lifelong learning programmes, pose particular challenges to existing economic and social disparities.

Confronting these barriers to participation in education requires the engagement of learners at all employment levels, across all sectors of employment. Surveys are required to identify what skills are required for the digital era. Information can help build curricula, create occupational skills mapping, and provide career guidance services for all by providing insight into which areas are in demand and the rewards for attaining those skills.

Emphasis on vocational training programmes has to take centre stage in skills development programmes for the new era. Learning programmes are most successful when all stakeholders have a stake. Co-funded models between government and employers, or co-funding coalitions of employers, also hold strong promise for scale. Given the right balance, a dynamic training ecosystem has the potential to provide fulfilling careers to future workers while enhancing social cohesion and equity.

Growing awareness of the technological changes associated with the fourth industrial revolution creates a new window of opportunity for concerted action for investing in the skills and potential of the workforce of the future. A new deal for lifelong learning is needed globally, and more specifically in emerging economies, to provide dynamic and inclusive systems, and to resolve both the immediate challenges and create sustainable models for the future.

Policy makers, business leaders and other stakeholders need to work together to ensure that skills training programmes and education systems optimise the availability and competence of the labour force, while providing educational opportunities for the entire population. This will require multi-stakeholder collaboration and investment in developing robust and dynamic training and education systems.

Technological innovations, changes in the workforce and the global nature of many of the problems we face require a big shift in our approach to how education is delivered.


LINK - https://www.businesslive.co.za/fm/features/2017-09-27-advancing-human-potential-and-skills-development/

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