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65% of children entering school will work in jobs that don’t yet exist – is SA ready?

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South Africa needs to prepare for the future world of work by developing future skills that will facilitate economic growth to enable businesses to compete in local and international markets. An advanced workforce will also make South Africa an attractive investment destination and allow us to stop importing skills.

How do we make this happen?

The world of work is changing super-fast on account of factors like globalisation, digitisation, rise of the consumer and artificial intelligence. Various forecasts of the impact of these estimate that between 50 – 70% of current jobs are being lost to technological advances. Our BRICS partners are moving faster to develop relevant skills for the new economy than we are. Unless we catch up, we will sit with a skills gap.

We need to identify the skills, create the roadmap and implement programmes to build the skills. It is critical that South Africa implements these skills at the BRICS standard.

There are a number of steps to developing a future-ready workforce.

Develop a roadmap of skills required

Analysing, forecasting and shaping future skills is a critical component in the rapidly changing world of work. To do this, SA is leveraging a number of BRICS partnerships. For instance, we are helping to develop the South African Atlas of Emerging Jobs in several sectors so we can meet the demand for these skills. Russia has made a great deal of progress on its Atlas, which is a roadmap of anticipated jobs and skills.

Build curricula and standards for international best practice

We can leverage BRICS relationships to develop curricula and standards for training in future skills.

Skills training

One of the ways to do this is by participating in annual online BRICS Future Skills Challenges or hackathons.

Measure effectiveness of training programmes

Participating in future skills challenges allows us to develop the required skills and benchmark standards. We also need to create skills programmes to uplift those already in the workforce.

Progress in growing the right local skills

The BRICS Skills Challenge, which is aimed at preparing the youth of member countries for future jobs, will be held in South Africa next year. This year’s challenge is hosted by China and 240 people, across 17 skills areas, are on the South African team. Young people aged between 16 and 35 from BRICS countries with skills in robotic process automation, mobile app development, data science, digital factory, cyber security and many other skills take part as individuals or teams in the online hackathon held over 1-6 November.

Participants are trained and exposed to real-world case studies where they solve problems in their specific skills area and design a solution with the support of experts.

Government agencies and companies also get the opportunity to become involved and be noticed for what they offer. The FoodBev Manufacturing SETA is currently a sponsor and is leveraging the opportunity to develop a shared vision of its sector’s future.

Says Nokuthula Selamolela, CEO at FoodBev Manufacturing SETA, “We are focusing on understanding the future of our sector, which challenges must be addressed and the necessary steps that need to be taken to build this future. Thereafter, we prioritise skills development – what kind of changes the future will bring to our existing professions and what this means for education and training.”

It is time for companies and government agencies in all sectors to take proactive steps in their respective industries.

Each sector needs to look critically at the skills currently available and those that are needed in the future.

Sherrie Donaldson is project director at BRICS Future Skills

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