IT, New Media & Software

Tuesday, 13 August 2019 10:22

How do we prepare for the disruption of jobs related to IoT?

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In preparing future generations for the information revolution, the most valuable educational commodity will be adaptability, writes Rockwell Automation Sub-Saharan Africa Managing Director Henry Craukamp.

There’s a general anxiety among many people when thinking about what the future of their industry might look like in light of our transition to an Internet of Things-based society: How will the era of artificial intelligence, automation and robots impact on our jobs? And even more extremely, what will the role of humanity be when many of the core jobs of the industrial society are replaced by machines?

But there’s a flip side to this coin of the human-machine relationship, and reconsidering our anxiety and focusing on the solution will help increase our chances of prosperity over the coming decades.

Already faced with over a quarter of the population being unemployed, that over 75 percent of current jobs in South Africa will either be rendered obsolete or changed beyond recognition by the fourth Industrial Revolution seems like an extremely ominous challenge on our horizon.

But this doesn’t automatically translate to job losses. While highly repetitive tasks are indeed being modernised by digital technologies, making an employee twice as productive does not mean halving the availability of jobs: it is estimated that 85 percent of the jobs that will drive the world economy in 2030 have yet to be created.

This also means that beyond generalised estimations about the types of skills people will require to participate in this new economy, we do not know the precise skillsets these new jobs will require, and thus how to definitively structure our education system to prepare workers accordingly. As part of its efforts to build essential capabilities in technology areas underpinning the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the South African Government is introducing subjects such as coding and data analytics at a primary school level to prepare young people for the jobs of the future. Piloting at 1 000 schools across the country will begin in 2020.

In our own international Rockwell Automation research and development laboratories, new technologies are constantly being introduced, researched and integrated into our operations. The only way to keep up with these quickly evolving technological demands and build sustainable workforce availability to use and master these innovations is to ensure we develop the necessary systems and culture to rapidly acquire new knowledge, on the shop floor.

It seems then that our most pressing challenge in developing the skills base of the future is two-fold:

First, we need to develop workers that are not just ‘adequately skilled’ as such, but where a core skill is the very ability to efficiently acquire new skills to adapt to ongoing transformations of their workplace. A focus on STEM skills; the development of new curricula based around IT/OT convergence and IIoT technology; the integration of tools like wearables (virtual and augmented reality); and a focus on micro certifications will help build essential foundational skills for the employees of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Second, using digital technologies we need to ensure that access to new skills and knowledge can be acquired faster and more efficiently. The use of digital media such as augmented reality in production and training environments is receiving growing attention, with several innovative companies introducing it in their training material to centralise their production methodologies, improving consistency and quality. These technologies can also be a useful medium in the challenge we face in retaining the essential ‘tribal knowledge’ of an organisation and industry, as experienced workers retire and younger workers take their place.

For the moment, these two critical points seem to be prerequisite factors in ensuring a future workforce that is ready for the jobs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

While we contemplate the inevitable disruption of our work environments, we shouldn’t see the role of machines as replacing human capabilities. Instead, we need to focus on a path that will ensure they extend and augment human achievements. We live in fascinating times.

CubicICE (PTY) Ltd

CubicICE is an integrated marketing and communications agency specialising in B2B and industrial marketing. We are a trusted marketing partner to some of Africa’s largest brands, and, with more than 30 years’ experience, have helped over 200 clients grow their business through strategic marketing intelligence and communications skill. As a full service integrated marketer, CubicICE combines traditional and digital marketing and creative design under one roof, and specialises in both quality lead generation and brand building. We offer all necessary in-house consulting; business planning, research and strategy; copywriting; graphic and digital design; campaign performance measuring and analysis; media planning; and administrative skills – all from our Sandton-based office in Johannesburg. A Google Partner, SEO-certified Company and IAB Member, CubicICE is a leader in search engine marketing, with a results-driven digital approach geared towards providing our clients with a clear online business advantage. Visit us at www.cubicice.co.za

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