Industry 4.0 and the required skills

The 4th Industrial Revolution (industry 4.0) is changing the way we live and work– what does it mean for your job or career? This message is specially prepared for learners, students and for employees of all kinds (professionals, artisans, and the workforce).    

The 4th Industrial Revolution (industry 4.0) is changing the world of work, don’t let it surprise you, learn about it and be prepared to endeavor into the new endeavors. The skills which are important today will soon be irrelevant, and the workforce of the future will be expected to possess new skills. Many future jobs will give “importance to cognitive abilities and system skills over physical abilities while defining core work-related skill sets”

Industry 4.0 can be explained as the current and developing environment whereby disruptive technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality (VRand artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the way we live and work. In laymen terms, computers or machines are increasingly gaining the capability to do what humans can do. Consequently, the nature of work itself, who does the work, and where work is done is changing. These changes are rewriting the rules of the global economy, while rapidly revising the skills required for employment in the process. 

Among the common threats about industry 4.0 that we usually hear these days is “millions of jobs will be destroyed by technology,” however, many new jobs will concurrently be created as well. Machines (automation and/or robotics) are already replacing humans in jobs with high automation potential. Such jobs are those which involve physical and manual tasks usually done by relatively unskilled labour such as drivers, and assembly line workers (factory workers). Workers such as cashiers, customer service staff, and those involved in low-level data input and processing i.e. typists and clerks, are likely to be affected as well. This shift is expected to occur differently across sectors. For example, the health sector is expected to see a rise in physical skills, but manufacturing and other sectors are expected to see a declining demand for humans with physical, manual and basic cognitive skills.  

If you’re a bookkeeper, legal secretary, insurance underwriter, credit analyst or any other person in a job with high automation potential, it would be in your best interest to be thinking long and hard about what you can offer beyond your existing set of skills and competencies. The time has come for you to reskill and upskill yourself with skills and knowledge relevant to the 4th Industrial revolution.

Think about automation’s role in the future and start looking for ways to future proof your career and build competencies in areas that machines are unlikely to tackle effectively. Those skills include high cognitive skills, social and emotional skills, and technological skills. 

High cognitive skills include advanced literacy and writing, quantitative and statistical skills, critical thinking and complex information processing. Doctors, research analysts, actuaries, writers, and editors typically use these skills. 

Social and emotional skills, usually refer to as soft skills, include the ability to communicate and negotiate well, empathy, people management, flexibility, and adaptability. Careers such as business development, programming, emergency response, counselling, and many others, require these skills. Jack Ma believes that soft skills are the answer, an effective way for humans to compete and beat machines. 

Technological skills include everything from basic to advance IT, data analysis, engineering, and research. These are highly sought after skills as the demand for software developers, engineers, robotics, and scientific experts is high and will remain high in the future. 

Technology is not coming to take away jobs but rather to shift jobs away from mass employment and from unskilled to the appropriately skilled personnel.  The key thing is that we need to be prepared for the up and coming changes and appropriately upskill ourselves in the relevant areas. The world of today is rapidly changing and as it changes, it also demands that we must adapt and be flexible to stay relevant. “Acquiring education is the best way to not be left behind, as technology races ahead” 

Sizwe Mabilisa is a Business Associate at Exxaro Resources LTD, with special interest in the energy and water sector. He is also an executive member for the Faculty of Best Advisory since 2015. He holds a BSc double major degree in Geography and Geology, as well as a BSc Hons in Geography and Environmental Management, obtained from the University of the Witwatersrand. 

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