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Reskilling to align with 4IR

Johannesburg, 11 Aug 2020
Sharon Oosterberg, Business Development Manager, CTU Training Solutions
Sharon Oosterberg, Business Development Manager, CTU Training Solutions

An estimated three million jobs have been lost to date owing to the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa alone. Probably more by the time you read this article. People are having to rethink how they earn a living – and reskilling or upskilling themselves to fit into the new working world is a step in the right direction.The entire world has moved to an online environment and we need to skill ourselves to survive in it.

One set of skills that will be relevant in the job market going forward is those that qualify the individual to play a role in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), says Sharon Oosterberg, Business Development Manager at CTU Training Solutions. While South Africa has been slow to come to the 4IR party, the advent of COVID-19 and the associated lockdown has driven rapid adoption of digital technologies – as well as the realisation that the country has a severe shortage of the requisite skills.

“Skills that allow you to work from any place and at any time are the ideal scenario. We’ve just passed the midway mark on 2020 and, while the pandemic has caused huge disruption to the job market, it can also be regarded as an opportunity for people to change their lives.”

A good place to start would be to identify the types of 4IR jobs that could survive the pandemic or that developed as a result of the pandemic. For instance, if you consider the overnight shift to remote working, companies had to accelerate their digitisation journeys and adopt cloud-based solutions virtually overnight, and with that implement security solutions to keep the remote workforce, the network and data secure.

“It’s an exciting and scary time. The jobs that we do today didn’t exist five years ago, and we need to be training for jobs that will exist in a year or even six months’ time that don’t exist right now. This presents huge opportunities for individuals, school leavers and people in current roles, particularly around cyber security. With everything moving to the cloud, security has to be included in every single role, regardless of what it entails. The remote workforce means that data and systems are at greater risk than ever before.”

People of all ages should be looking to build their skillsets to ensure they remain relevant going forward. Oosterberg believes individuals should consider accreditations in both hard and soft skills, with the most popular currently being courses that include interpersonal and multidisciplinary, problem-solving, social, cloud-based and project management skillsets.

A big switch has been seen in the types of skills and accreditations that employers are seeking, according to Oosterberg. Today, vendors are looking to role-based skills and certification instead of being product-related. A role-based job is one that's connected to a specific function, instead of a generic one. The IT industry, in particular, is becoming increasingly specialised and it's looking for very specific skills in very specific areas.

In alignment with this shift, the majority of vendors have moved to more role-based skills and certifications over the past two years. This makes it easier for an individual to be multi-vendor skilled in a particular role. She recommends that learners do a vendor foundation skills course and, from there, look at the various job roles and decide on which path to take.

However, this could be trickier than it appears. If you consider the rapid pace of change in the IT sector, there's currently demand for skills around artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and data science, but it’s difficult to predict where the demand will lie in three or four years' time.

The challenge lies in exploring roles and training for humans in a world that’s increasingly driven by technology and automation. “We have to consider the roles that humans will play and the skills that will be required of them.

“You have to consider whether traditional jobs can be automated and how will that look, and skill yourself accordingly. The skills that survive the 4IR will be those that are acquired by multidisciplinary education where people understand both the science and the technology.”

Another big eye-opener that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic was which job roles were considered essential services, and which of those could be performed remotely. With some roles moving to online platforms, some workers would have required reskilling to be able to work in an online environment. “We’ve seen a shift in technology in the past three months that would normally have taken three years to achieve, with people being forced into a hi-tech environment and online cyber world overnight. If you consider schools alone, we’re seeing four-year-olds using online platforms to interact with friends and do playdough classes. Teachers had to suddenly learn new skills to cope in this new environment.”

This demand for new skills means that, in the post-COVID world, skills validation is going to be the key to success. This makes it more important than ever for organisations and individuals to embed training and certification into their business plans; they have to upskill for a whole new world in which technology touches everything. Only now are people realising how much they can do online and how critical technology is.

Increasingly, companies are discovering that they don’t have the skills for this new world that they’ve been thrust into. People working from home suddenly have to manage their own time and aren’t always equipped for that level of discipline. It requires a psychological shift over and above the technology requirements. Companies are finding their workforces are struggling to handle the complete self-management role they suddenly have thrust upon them.

COVID-19 made some companies realise they can give their staff all the technical skills they need but they also need to address the soft skills, such as how to work from home, time management, how to work in isolation and how to conduct themselves during online meetings. “Employees are used to having people tell them what to do and watching them work for eight hours a day. Working on their own and having to take responsibility for their own output requires a huge mind-shift. We need to train and skill a design mindset, teaching people how to work smarter not harder. Today it’s all about output, not input.”

Employed learners can expand their skills by taking online courses after hours, with some courses lasting a day and others running over longer periods, depending on the type of qualification. Today, people are able to go online and grow their skillsets anytime and from anywhere; all they require is a device that can connect to the Internet and sufficient data.

The fourth industrial revolution – and COVID-19 – will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another. Find out more about improving your skillset here: