Now is the time to unleash the skills development potential of 4IR, says PBT Group –

The potential that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will have on Africa is significant. Mobile technologies and services have already generated 1.7 million direct jobs.

Digitalization translates into increased efficiency, bringing with it new opportunities for economic growth and job creation.

But if the continent really wants to benefit from the 4IR, both the public and private sectors need to rethink skills development and the way people work, says Andreas Bartsch, Head of Innovation and Services at PBT Group.

“Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and robotic process automation (RPA) are beginning to take over many repetitive tasks.

Cynics argue that this comes at the expense of the very jobs 4IR intends to create.

However, as people can now focus more on the value they can bring to an organization, this presents the perfect opportunity to equip them with the skills needed to succeed in a digitally driven world. Now it’s about learning new things and adopting a more adaptable way of working,” says Bartsch.

Bartsch believes that the most important soft skills in 4IR aren’t necessarily the technology-focused ones. Instead, it’s about whether a person is willing to learn continuously.

In this framework, being creative, having a high level of emotional intelligence, providing good analytical thinking, having a growth mindset and an ability to make logical decisions help considerably in this regard.

In addition, good interpersonal communication and showing leadership are also important.

Connection between industries under 4IR

“Of course, being tech-savvy will help, but it’s not about understanding how to code or assemble a computer. It’s essentially about knowing how to best use solutions to unlock business value. Things like that mobile technologies, the cloud and data analytics are the catalysts,” adds Bartsch.

Global Battleground

Even so, there is still a need for essential IT, data analytics, and artificial intelligence skills in organizations across all industry sectors. Businesses across Africa are now competing globally for these rare skills and others as 4IR becomes mainstream.

“For local organizations, it’s not about trying to attract talent with high salaries. Africa is unlikely to rival first world countries when it comes to monetary incentives. Instead, it requires a more innovative approach to attracting and retaining talent. Part of that involves embracing hybrid working and offering employees flexible work hours and time out of the office,” says Bartsch.

Organizations should also take a closer look at the skills essential for a 4IR environment. This includes data scientists, data architects, data engineers, and other specialized IT functions.

continues Bartsch; “While many higher education institutions still lag behind in the courses and degrees designed to create these roles, organizations can themselves invest in and develop their employees, providing them with the experience necessary for these critical positions.”

Change management

It can be easy to give in to the temptation to rush to develop skills or to attract exciting new talent to the 4IR environment. However, organizations should always keep change management in mind, especially when it comes to integrating the new into existing processes, systems and ways of doing things.

“In a digital world, HR takes on an even more critical function. This department needs to integrate across the entire organization to ensure that employee engagement is high, that there is an understanding of how people’s needs are being met, and to identify concerns that individuals may have regarding the work environment,” says Bartsch.

In many ways, this can help the organization prepare for the future as the 4IR evolves and new skills are needed and become available.

However, it will not be a painless process from both an organizational and an educational point of view. There are systemic changes that need to be considered throughout the education system. How learners are educated and what they are educated about will certainly help address the skills shortage.

“With the 4IR being such a critical component to future business success, decision-makers have no choice but to embrace this new way of doing things and invest in developing 4IR-aligned skills. as they look to take advantage of future growth opportunities,” concludes Bartsch.

Norma A. Roth