Skills Development amidst the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution

Author: Melissa van Aswegen, ETQA Manager at The Skills Development Corporation

What does the future look like for innovative, leaders in the business sphere? Many business owners are abuzz with 4IR – ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’. Robotics, Internet of things (IOT) and Artificial Intelligence (IA), to name but a few, are gradually easing their way into the Skills Development industry in South Africa. We now need to be prepared, more than ever before to equip our workplaces and pave the way for advancement.

New 4IR technologies are transforming the way we live, work and govern ourselves. From high-tech strategies initiated in Germany, to the advancement of many service driven industries across the world. If South Africa is to be fully on board, we need to start at grass roots level; education being the ticket to a new generation of forward-thinking individuals.

It is undoubtedly a profound revolution that presents significant transformation opportunities to the skills development landscape, and we need to look at these great opportunities, as well as the risk factors that come along with any form of change.

4IR technologies will ascertain many advancements in the educational industry. Perhaps some of the most exciting that we can expect is fully digitalised products for learning, mobile learning and interactive learning – all of which will increase the accessibility of potential students in the more remote areas, thus increasing the possibilities of imparting knowledge anywhere and at any time. This being said, we can soon expect to introduce dynamic and interactive learning interfaces, which will deliver real time feedback to students and endorse full qualifications instantaneously.

4IR does, however, bring various risks for the Skills Development industry, all of which must be taken into account. 4IR could introduce challenges such as cyber-crimes and privacy infringements, since gaining access to these tech savvy platforms will also attract online perpetrators and malicious intrusions.

The biggest risk is perhaps the loss of the human touch. Automated technologies can never be a substitute for interpersonal critique and judgement, and this factor will be lost. Unemployment is one of the greatest challenges that we face in this country. National Policies, Strategies and leaders in public and private sectors are determined to introduce new and sustainable job creation initiatives to ensure that our economy thrives.

We need to ask ourselves how we can embrace this technology to improve the learning experience and still encourage job opportunities. To answer this, I want to take a moment to discuss a typical search engine. All the information you could possibly want in text, video and multimedia formats, available to you 24/7. If this is the case, why are we not finding self-taught engineers or doctors? Why is every student not using these resources to excel within the classroom? The reason is that people desire human-interaction during their learning experience. They want to study personal experiences from a subject-matter expert and have an opportunity to attach emotion to their learning journey. Thankfully for most subject areas, Artificial Intelligence will never be able to substitute the teacher within the classroom.

With 4IR in our midst, we find ourselves entering a very exciting era in education. Let us embrace this ground-breaking movement and be part of the revolutionary transformation of the Skills Development landscape of South Africa.