It has been estimated that globally 50% of jobs currently in existence will not exist by 2030 and our children are not protected from this reality. The global transformation currently underway, called the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), entails the convergence of all digital, physical and biological technologies. It is predicted, that by 2020, 4IR will have brought us advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, genetic engineering and virtual reality.

However, South Africa is already struggling to employ its youth. The country registered an unemployment rate of 29.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019 which is staggeringly high. The question is, can South Africa adapt quickly enough to adequately equip its young people with the skills required by 4IR?

The labour market of the future will require new skills including digital fluency, creative thinking, problem solving, collaboration, empathy and adaptability. Traditional thinking was that the more specialised a person became, the more economically valuable they would be. However, 4IR requires a person to be interdisciplinary – to have sufficient knowledge in other fields outside of their area of specialisation.

Considering that information and communications technologies is the fastest growing industry in South Africa, and that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics sectors are also achieving similar growth, skills in robotics and coding will future-proof our learners and equip them for the ‘jobs of the future’.

According to the World Economic Forum, the top ten emerging jobs are:

  1. Data analysts and scientists;
  2. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning specialists;
  3. General and operations managers;
  4. Software developers and analysts;
  5. Sales and marketing specialists;
  6. Big data specialists;
  7. Digital transformation specialists;
  8. New technology specialists;
  9. Organisational development specialists;
  10. Information technology services

The 4IR is no longer coming, it is upon us. The best we can do as parents, and educators, is to ensure that our students have the necessary skills for future job and labour markets, and have the ability to navigate the uncertain environment of a technology-driven economy. Our education system simply has to adapt, otherwise our children will be left behind.

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