4IR and the Changing Nature of Work
The fourth industrial revolution is upon us: the age of digital disruption. It represents a fundamental change in the way that society lives, works and relates to one another as highlighted during Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams’ 4IR engagement session with the creative industry held earlier in the year. One of the key speakers, Dr Brian Armstrong from Wits University’s BCX Chair in Digital Business, stressed that this revolution will affect everyone and as such conversations around 4IR need to be inclusive and involve everyone – including industry, government, associations and civil society.
Sentiments similar to these were shared at the 4IR Commission at the recent 2019 National Skills Conference. Specifically, the Commission looked at the implications of the fourth industrial revolution, with many interesting facts and ideas having emerged.
This included the following:
• Traditional universities are becoming outdated: their borders are porous and melting. Short learning programmes and platform-based learning like Khan Academy and Udemy will increasingly become the standard form of learning as they are far more agile and responsive than traditional institutions.
• Occupations are becoming fragmented and individuals will increasingly have to deploy a non-standard range of skills sets. Digital badging will become increasingly important to signal an individual’s capacity to work and learn while working, as well as demonstrate particular skills and achievements.
• While there is a lot of merited and unmerited hype about 4IR there will also be merited and unmerited.
• The fuel which drives 4IR is data. Data-related skills such as data analytics, data visualisation and machine learning will become increasingly import.
• All schools should have “tinkering labs” where children can engage with technology without having a formal learning process. A local precedent of such initiatives is the Fak’ugesi Festival in Braamfontein’s digital innovation precinct.
What may not be apparent is that we are already well into the Fourth Industrial Revolution . It is affecting traditional occupations as automation and data evolve. In some cases this will lead to job redesign, job transfers and job losses as automation takes over the function of certain types of work. In other cases it presents opportunities for career development and for the emergence of new types of work.
The WorkFit Toolkit helps colleges and employers design experiences for youth that mitigate some of the challenges thrown up by 4IR. You can download the Toolkit here.