According to research, it is said that over a billion young people will have joined the global workforce by the year 2030 and one of the greatest challenges we face as SETAs is understanding how we can best equip them to reach their full potential. Most importantly how do we ensure that the candidates that we produce, have the most relevant skill sets that will make them attractive to employers?
However, an equally important and urgent question remains “how do we prepare young people for jobs of the future that don’t yet exist?” The demand for higher cognitive skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, decision making, and complex information processing, is also set to grow through 2030 according to Mckinsey. As the nature of work continues to evolve at lightning speed, it is almost impossible to predict the exact combination of hard and soft skills that potential employers will be looking for in the right candidates. Undoubtedly though, there will be more emphasis placed on 21st-century skills, that is, the transferable soft skills which employees of the future can utilise across a wide range of industries.
What will also be important for us in the chemical sector, is to introduce students to industry-standard protocols and practices at an early stage. This will assist us to help graduates to bridge the gap between work and study after graduation. (This is in line with our earlier assertion that introducing soft skills can assist employment retention).
We cannot ignore the fact that technology is bringing unprecedented changes to the workplace and our challenge as a SETA and the chemical industry at large, is to proactively address the issues that may befall us in the future. This is why redefining our new agenda for research, as the CHIETA, is important for us as this will ensure that we stay relevant as a Skills Development and Training organisation in the future.
Our new agenda for research must be aimed at identifying the new occupations that are required in the chemical sector as part of Industry 4.0. It must also be focussed on identifying the skills gaps between the skills of today and those the future will require. We will also concentrate our research efforts on identifying and creating education and training programmes that will prepare the future workforce to be agile, adaptive and creative in the new world of work. Understanding business value chains and creating new occupations as well as new qualifications and programme models that will adequately position the sector to deliver, amidst the changing technological landscape will also be a key focus area of our research.
It will also be important for us to leverage both our local and global partnerships with institutions that are industry leaders in research. By tapping into higher education institutions, research organisations, and international best practice models, this will improve our understanding of what we need to achieve from a holistic perspective. This process will assist our understanding of global practices and how best we can learn from them and better still to reinvent them to suit our needs from a South African perspective.
Facilitating dialogues with relevant industry players and communities at large will begin to unearth the key issues that can be elevated for further research. This should form part of our medium to long term interventions to building a comprehensive plan to deal with the onset of Industry 4.0.
This era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution prompts a response from the CHIETA to seek new knowledge and identify capacity existing within our public higher education and training institutions in actively researching future occupations and skills while assisting in the design scalable programmes that we can showcase to the sector.