"As we enter the New Year, we need to brace for rapid changes around the new technology-driven economy," says Dr Raymond Patel, CEO of merSETA.
While the manufacturing world is moving towards this new paradigm, the vocational and skills development training sector is lagging behind. What, then, needs to be done in the face of this burgeoning uncertainty? And how is the merSETA preparing for Industry 4.0? What is the paradigm shift that will be needed to deal with the shift in societal relations?
These are the key questions that arose at a recent international conference at which the merSETA was a key participant.
Pointers for the future are that:
- There will be labour market transitions which will demand training and retraining. This will lead to more rapid occupational mobility between different sectors of the economy;
- Skills mismatches between labour demand and supply will become a thing of the past, as the demand for specialised knowledge grows at faster paces;
- The concept of Just-in-Time will soon be a reality;
- 3-D printing will have major societal impacts – for example, a rural hospital may be supplied a 3-D printed body part, such as a hip-bone replacement part, via a drone, with both the printer and drone owned by a local manufacturer;
- Fresh financial instruments will have to be developed or created to enable small, specialised manufacturing sectors to take advantage of these oportunities
- Logistical and associated challenges will cease to be major problems;
- The TVET landscape will change dramatically with industry demand being the arbiter of the curricula and the knowledge level of student/labour output;
- The concept of just the right amount of education in the current curricula of TVETs will cease as a practice, as curricula will have to be rapidly adapted to meet the demand for specialised knowledge;
- Industry will subsidise those institutions that are able to keep abreast of Industry 4.0 to the detriment of lagging institutions. This would need policy interventions in South Africa.
So, to answer the question with regard to the merSETA charting the way forward, the organisation is set to conduct extensive research to determine future skills and training.
- New products, new manufacturing processes/changing manufacturing processes, new technologies, and the impact of these on occupations and skills;
- New government policies, new government funding, new private investment, the emerging sector, mainstreaming the traditional township economy and the impact of these on new jobs;
- Recent new occupations/emerging occupations as well as new occupations in the longer term;
- Best practice approaches to education, training and skills development;
- A critique as to whether the current strategy accounts for emerging trends as well as national government priorities;
- Recommendations for skills development strategy to be put in place, including providing direction for what post-school E&T institutions should do, in particular TVET colleges;
- Provide a mechanism that will give unemployed youth access to informal apprenticeships;
- Engage non-training SME workplaces;
- Lift the Skills Development system out of its infrastructure constraints;
- Link career guidance directly to easily accessible learning pathways;
- Support, measure and track apprentices’ progress; and
- Apply ICT enablement for occupational learning.
These are processes that we believe will bring industry, particularly the SME sector, up to speed to confront the challenges of future manufacturing.