This is what the fourth industrial revolution means for your budding career

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We take a closer look at the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR) and what it means for our young people.
We take a closer look at the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR) and what it means for our young people.
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Technology is a double-edged sword – it can be a tool to find solutions, but it can also create problems. 

It is changing our world, at every level, faster than ever. In the workplace, this means a life of uncertainty as we are constantly presented with another version of another version of another version.

We take a closer look at the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR) and what it means for our young people. 

IT’S A REVOLUTION 

The word revolution may sound dramatic, but the way society is transforming is just that – technology is drastically changing the way we live, work and interact with others. 

The three previous Industrial Revolutions – the steam engine and waterpower, electricity and mass production and the rise of digital technology – resulted in fundamental changes of the world. This fourth one, although connected to the third, is considered a separate era because of the speed, scope and impact of the changes. Almost every industry in every country is being disrupted by technology. 

 “It will even challenge our ideas about what it means to be human,” according to Forbes. 

The best-case scenario is that smarter workplaces and more efficient machines will improve the quality of life and raise income levels for all.  

However, there’s also a fear that the divide between the low-skill/low-pay and high-skill/high-pay sectors of society will widen even further. And therefore it’s so important that our education and training systems prepare people with the right skills. 

Read more | How this Soweto-born businessman learned to adapt his business during the Covid-19 pandemic

FOCUS ON OUR YOUTH 

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is not merely a buzzword that can be ignored, and parents, children, students and graduates need to keep up to date with changes happening on a daily basis,” says Hanli Goncalves, founder of the My Future 4.0 Next Level Digital Skills and Careers Summit. 

“The workforce of tomorrow will have to prepare for careers that may not even exist now and will need develop skill sets to cope and thrive,” Goncalves says. 

It sounds scary but Goncalves says step one is to demystify the Fourth Revolution. “We are already in it, so we need to embrace it. We can get ahead of the curve if high-tech companies show the youth what to do.” 

WHAT WILL THE WORKPLACE LOOK LIKE? 

It’s hard to paint an exact picture as changes are ongoing. However, some jobs will certainly fall away, which means it’s important to think carefully about your choices.   

“Don’t aspire to be someone who answers the phone for a company,” Goncalves says. “IBM launched a fully autonomous receptionist some years ago.”  

Certain jobs will remain, but the tasks may be different. Marketing, for example, now requires specialists on different social-media platforms. Accounting will still need people for face-to-face business discussions, but AI (artificial intelligence) will take over number crunching and come up with data for your business. 

It’s important to see tech as an enabler or an assistant rather than something that’s going to destroy, Goncalves says. 

“Many teachers, for example, are nervous about robotics and online classes, but teachers are not going to fall away. A human interaction is always necessary. However, they must be able to use tech for things like sharing lesson experiences.” 

Agriculture will live on, but in an altered state. Goncalves gives an example of a small wine estate in the Western Cape that had a labour force of 12 people physically working in sun every day. The owners automated the farm and most of the labour force was upskilled into control-room situations like using the automated irrigation system.

The farmers’ experience of working on the land and with the vines was fed into the system and they became control managers. Automation subsequently boosted productivity and created more jobs – the estate now employs 27 people. 

“Naturally, tech skills are great if you are academically and financially able to take them on, but it’s not the be-all and end-all,” Goncalves says. “There are so many other avenues to take.”  

Not least artisan skills, of which there’s a dire shortage in this country. You don’t need to be a tech expert in this field, she notes, you just need to be adaptable. Carpentry is still a job of the future, for example, but people are now being trained on simulation apps to protect trees. 

And where some jobs will go, others will rise in their places. 

“We may not have petrol-pump attendants or car mechanics for much longer, but we have cloud technicians and data hostage negotiators,” Goncalves says. “Cybersecurity is a huge world of opportunity.”  

Read more | What are your chances of getting a job during a pandemic - and how university graduates can adapt

BE PROACTIVE 

Life-long learning is the order of the day – you can never know enough. And there’s disruption – you will need to learn and unlearn. 

Start looking at all learning opportunities, Goncalves says. “There are many online facilities – some free or very cheap – and a few companies are offering free training in things like coding at weekends. Universities and colleges also offer training.”  

Contact the department of higher education and training and the department of basic education as well. They have people who are there to help. 

“There’s no doubt coding is the new language, so learn a bit. Read, read and read to develop a better vision of the world that’s changing so fast. There are lots of exciting stories of how tech is helping us achieve things. Think of drones delivering medicine or food into remote areas. Some schools even have drone technology written into their curriculums,” Goncalves says.

Take your head out of the sand, Goncalves adds. “It’s not as intimidating as it sounds but you have to have the knowledge and give yourself the edge over the next person who does have their head in the sand.” 

Remember, technology is here to stay but there’s always a human in there somewhere as well. 

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