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MICT SETA spearheads formal training for 4IR in SA

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The Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA) has developed 11 fourth industrial revolution (4IR) future skills qualifications.

These were recently gazetted by the Quality Council for Trades & Occupations (QCTO).

In a statement, MICT SETA says 4IR represents a new era of innovation in technology – one that is unlocking new market opportunities, and fuelling growth across the global economy.

The introduction of the 11 4IR future skills qualifications is a monumental milestone for the country and the MICT SETA, says the authority.

The development comes after the South African government recently gazetted its 4IR blueprint. This after Cabinet approved its publication, charting a way forward for the framework that makes recommendations on how best the country can position itself in the global 4IR context.

Compiled by the Presidential Commission on 4IR (PC4IR), the report was promulgated in the Government Gazette dated 23 October 2020.

According to the PC4IR, the fourth industrial revolution is an opportunity for SA to achieve Vision 2030 and beyond.

Employment, entrepreneurship boost

“As the MICT SETA, we are excited about our partnership with the higher learning institutions in launching and spearheading the provision of formal training for 4IR in South Africa,” says Matome Madibana, MICT SETA acting CEO.

“We are hopeful that with these 11 qualifications, we are going to bridge the current shortage of skilled labour within the ICT and digital industries and, ultimately, increase the employment rate and entrepreneurship in South Africa.”

The newly-developed qualifications include: artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, cyber security, data science, design thinking lead, design thinking practitioner, internet of things, robotic processing automation, quality engineering automation, systems development and e-waste.

According to MICT SETA, these qualifications will equip young professionals and the current workforce to deal with the disruptive effects of new technologies. It adds that the qualifications will enable the young professionals to innovate and create new products and services across industries.

A MICT SETA 4IR advisory committee was established to adhere to four organisational pillars – education, research, policy and labour.

The authority says one of the key outputs from the advisory committee is the integrated digital skills strategy.

It points out that the 11 qualifications were developed under that strategy in collaboration with a community of experts, such as universities, TVET Colleges, QCTO, original equipment manufacturers, professional bodies, labour and government departments, under the leadership of Gugu Sema, acting senior manager for 4IR and 4IR assessment quality partner at MICT SETA.

“We have the opportunity to create a 4IR-ready country and workforce. I am confident the multi-faceted and collaborative approach we are taking will yield positive results and have long-term effects on the economy and society,” says Sema.

As a strategic implementation imperative, the SETA established research chairs in 2020 with the University of Johannesburg, Wits University, Nelson Mandela University, University of Western Cape and Tshwane University of Technology, to strengthen and improve research and innovation capacity.

To increase reach across the public university landscape, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Walter Sisulu and Fort Hare universities were on-boarded recently.

The QCTO gazetted future skills qualifications are still open for public comment on the MICT SETA website.

After the public comment process, the qualifications will be submitted to the South African Qualifications Association for further validation, approval and registration to the public domain.

“We strongly encourage participation from the public on these exciting qualifications, so we can ensure all viewpoints and feedback is taken into account as we finalise the process that will have a high impact on the South African labour force and its readiness to take advantage of 4IR,” says Madibana.

Here to stay

Moira De Roche, chairperson of IFIP IP3 and learning specialist, comments: “Despite protests from some quarters that South Africa is ‘not ready’ for 4IR; it is here, like it or not.

“It is important for the country that we have people with the skills to innovate and exploit 4IR technologies. Perhaps, most importantly, it will provide those whose jobs face redundancy to be reskilled.”

According to De Roche, SA can improve 4IR skills by embracing them, and realising that “future skills” are those skills that are uniquely human – empathy, creativity, etc.

“Although robotics, AI, blockchain and to some extent systems analysis are very important, there is the possibility of all technical skills being automated – but understanding the possibilities these technologies afford for innovation (which is where creative skills and an innovation mindset come in), is what will help the country exploit 4IR and Industry 5.0.

“The reality is that the skills (sometimes called ‘soft’ skills) I have described are not easily taught, but they must be consciously developed,” she concludes.

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