Surviving the 4th Industrial Revolution: Reskilling

A MasterStart report found that only 23.8% of South African professionals are confident their current skills are enough to secure their employment over the next decade. Technological innovations have streamlined a great many aspects of the human experience; and while some are excited by the ease of accessibility, many professionals are feeling the turbulence of the fourth industrial revolution and how it might affect job security.

The job market is changing rapidly and if we – as employees, employers and entrepreneurs – don’t adapt, we face extinction. Cathy Smith, Managing Director of SAP Africa says, “there’s no doubt that this so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to disrupt many occupations. This is perfectly natural: every industrial revolution has made some jobs redundant. At the same time, these revolutions have created vast new opportunities that have taken us forward exponentially.” So how do we create solutions to shape a workable future in our industries of interest? Upskilling and reskilling seem to be the most obvious answers to the burning question.

Future-proofing your career requires that you learn to learn, as ManpowerGroup CEO Jonas Prising believes. “Though creativity, communication and collaboration are still going to be extremely important capabilities to have… we think that the key evolution that is going to happen in this Fourth Industrial Revolution is this notion of learnability: the desire and ability to keep on learning,” the Swedish businessman says.

“The job of an accountant may no longer exist in a few years, replaced completely by automation. We now live in a world of continuous upskilling, where your credentials can be disrupted and rendered obsolete in a matter of a few years,” tech author Rob Biederman explains.

So this begs the question: should employers be providing educational programmes or is it the responsibility of employees to seek knowledge and acquire new skills on their own? According to Jonas, upskilling and reskilling your workforce is an investment into your own success.

“The likelihood of making a healthy company transformation while changing out massive amounts of your workforce are really low and it’s very very high risk. So it is going to be a driving force, to run a better business, to continue to educate and enable individuals to learn while they are there,” he says.

Tasking your employees with the skills to adapt to the rapidly changing technological developments ensures that your company doesn’t get left behind. And in today’s gig economy, one in which temporary positions and high staff turnovers are common, employer promises need to be enticing enough to pull prospective applicants. Employees are looking to work for companies that will tap into, and realise, their potential so they might be marketable when they leave the company or if they want to move up within their current place of work.

“As employers, we have to start working closely with schools, universities and even non-formal education to provide learning opportunities to our workers,” Cathy Smith warns.

What does this look like in practice? There are creative ways of giving your staff a leg up in these uncertain times. NextWave uses Virtual Reality devices to train site managers and builders that are going to be working on a construction site on how to operate machinery safely.

Online Training Simulations can help investment bankers brush up on their customer service skills, and the same can be said for mortgage brokers with forming personal relationships with clients. Even the World Economic Forum asserts that, “there will be a strong demand for professionals who can blend digital and [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] STEM skills with traditional subject expertise, such as digital-mechanical engineers and business operations data analysts, who combine deep knowledge of their industry with the latest analytical tools to quickly adapt business strategies. There will also be more demand for user interface experts, who can facilitate seamless human-machine interaction. For Sub-Saharan Africa, the greatest long-term benefits of such jobs are likely to be found in the promotion of home-grown African digital creators, designers and makers.” If employers begin to train their staff in these capabilities now, there won’t be a scramble to adapt when the technologies become standard procedure.

The future of work is brighter than conventional wisdom suggests – it is not going to be human versus machine, but rather human and machine,” said John Fallon, Chief Executive Officer of Pearson. According to the World Economic Forum, the demand for data analysts has grow by 372% globally between 2012 and 2017, and the demand for data visualisation skills increased by as much as 2 000%. A job market that is only expected to grow. This should only encourage professionals to improve themselves and increase their skills so that they can put themselves and their places of work in a better standing moving forward.