Skills development in the COVID-19 era: 4IR saves the day!

Skills development in the COVID-19 era: 4IR saves the day!

Skills development in the COVID-19 era: 4IR saves the day!

To date, the discourse on the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (now popularly known as the 4IR) has been mostly speculative, while lamentations and fears of a negative impact on the workforce have been louder than speculations regarding its benefits.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the reality of 4IR in the workplace.

  • With the arrival of 4IR, analysts predicted that the winds of change would sweep across the world of work from 2020 going forward – Hattingh, S. (2017). This calls for upskilling of the workforce to deal with the change
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has added to the burden of employers in preparing their employees to deal with 4IR, while at the same time adhering to the health stipulations that authorities have put in place.

This blog touches on the paradigm shift in Skills Development and the strategies that we have developed for business owners to overcome these challenges by accessing training from the comfort of their spaces, be it their homes or offices!

Skills development due for change

The combined effect of the 4IR and the Covid-19 pandemic will compel companies to change not only the way they work but also the manner in which they upskill their employees.

  • Companies need to rethink, not only the mediums through which training is conducted but also the skills their employees will need to survive the 4IR era and the pandemic.
  • Currently there are concerns about containing the virus, as well as fears of possible a future skills gap that could be created due to the worldwide lockdowns that have caused disruptions in the educational sector. South Africa has not been spared, but fortunately both government and industry can build resilience by proactively avoiding possible future skills gaps while at the same time ensuring a healthy workforce.

Save the academic year, save lives

In light of the inevitable changes that must occur in the training environment in South Africa, the minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, in a media statement issued on 25 May 2020, announced the measures that the educational institutions and industry must adopt under the theme: Saving the academic year, saving lives

  • With regard to engagement with the SETAs and industry on skills development, the minister urged all employers “both in the public and private sectors, to turn their workplaces into training spheres”. Even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the need for industry to be ready for change had been echoed by many industry experts. They predicted that the 4IR will affect how industry operates at an exponential pace – Menon, K and G Castrillión (2019).  
  • This means policy makers, including the government, SETAs and other bodies, must rethink skills development, among other industry-related strategies. 
  • For companies, this means the entire workforce will be affected, if this is not already the case. The current systems of production, management and governance need to align with the changes, while business leaders and executives need to embrace and adapt to the new world of technology. Although stakeholders will face some challenges, such as infrastructure and the added financial burden of acquiring new technology required for online learning gadgets, the need to put in place these measures is now more imperative than ever before.
  • We are moving increasingly towards an era where online learning will be the norm rather than the exception. The SETAs are also in the process of moving to online learning, with some of the largest SETAs such as the Services SETA having already embarked on the process of accepting applications for e-learning accreditation. 

Skills development: a paradigm shift

It is crucial for business leaders to understand the major shifts that are happening in industry to ensure that their skills planning and other strategies are in place to survive the turbulence of the coming years.

At SERR Synergy we have taken a proactive approach by making changes to our skills development solutions. We have not only moved our courses to online platforms but we have also designed new courses in line with 4IR to prepare business owners and their employees for the new world of work.

In conclusion

Even though the dawn of 4IR entails great change and turbulence in the industry, the best way to deal with change is to prepare for it. Skills development has always been a vital element for the operation of industry. The importance of skills development in preparing for change cannot be overstated. Everyone is on edge given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, but with a well-designed strategy, the impact on skills development and other operations of industry can be mitigated. SERR Synergy is well prepared to assist all clients to navigate through these turbulent times.

About the Author: Pedzisai Maririmba joined SERR Synergy in October 2016 as a Learnerships Project Manager at our Pretoria branch. She has been working in the Skills Development arena for more than 13 years and is a registered assessor and Skills Development Facilitator. She was recently admitted as an attorney of the High Court of South Africa and holds an LLB from UNISA, an LLM from the University of Pretoria and a BSc (Hons) in Media Studies from the Midlands State University. Pedzisai is currently studying towards an LLD at the University of Pretoria.

References:

  1. Hattingh, S. (2017). "Skills planning for the disruptive Fourth Industrial Revolution." HR Future 2017(Jan 2017): 20-23.
  2. Hattingh, S. (2017). “Preparing the workforce for the Fourth Industrial Revolution” Skills at Work: Theory and Practice Journal 9, pp 6 - 18.
  3. Laura Caetano and Anesu Charamba (2017) “Implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. HR Future 2017, pp 26 - 28.
  4. Kirti Menon and Gloria Castrillón (2019) “Reimagining curricula for the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. The Independent Journal of Teaching and Learning 14, pp 6 - 19.
  5. Mehta, A. (2018). "Wise up for the Fourth Industrial Revolution." HR Future 2018 (Oct 2018): 18-21.

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