ADDRESSING THE ICT SKILLS SCARCITY, UNEMPLOYMENT AND JOB REDUNDANCIES NOW AND IN THE FUTURE – EDUCATION IMPERATIVES FOR 2020
According to the World Bank Report on Digital Skills in Sub Saharan Africa, the demand for ICT skills is expected to grow in the region at a faster rate than other global markets. They further cite socio-behavioural skills as a priority for a future workforce.
Joanne Brink, CEO of Brighter Futures interviews Alan Hosking on the scarcity of ICT skills in the South African workplace. A tech-savvy ex-teacher, with decades of experience in the human capital industry, Alan sheds light on the way forward to bridge the skills gap which is crippling businesses, with opportunities to tackle existing youth unemployment, and importantly protect the jobs of people who have a likely consequence of redundancy given rapidly evolving AI technology.
JOANNE BRINK: IN 2019, PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA EXPRESSED AN URGENT NEED FOR PROGRAMMING TO BECOME COMPULSORY IN SCHOOLS. WILL THIS BE ADEQUATE TO ADDRESS THE SCARCITY OF SKILLS?
ALAN: As ICT industry commentator Adrian Schofield says, we have to fix the education system and provide education to build a foundation and open the eyes of the youth to the opportunities in the digital world.
So, President Ramaphosa’s suggestion is indeed valid and a step in the right direction, but I predict the Department of Education’s solution will fall short of what industry really needs, and even if it addresses the gaps, it will take decades to implement across the system. Parents can therefore not afford to wait until government has a solution in place. They need to take responsibility for their children’s education by seeking out online and classroom tuition solutions that can give their children a head-start.
To address the existing problem in the workplace, companies should identify and “upskill” existing at-risk-employees who, with the emergence of AI and other technology, will very likely become redundant. Offering ICT skills to appropriately selected candidates can address the more pressing needs in the present as well as prepare employees for future career path shifts.
JOANNE BRINK: YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT IS CURRENTLY PEGGED AT OVER 60% AND GROWING – HOW CAN YOUTH BE BEST ABSORBED INTO THE WORKPLACE, IN PARTICULAR THE ICT SECTOR?
ALAN: Generally speaking, there’s not so much a shortage of jobs in the ICT sector as there is a shortage of skills – hence the “war for talent” of which people speak. It is suggested that 5 000 immigrants are taking up jobs in the ICT sector in South Africa and companies are finding themselves with inhibited economic growth as a result of the ICT skills shortage. We need programmes like the Brighter Futures Coding Cafe to fast-track our youth into the growing number of un-filled programming jobs across the globe. In the US alone over one million coding jobs are unfilled.
There is also a significant opportunity for unemployed young graduates to become part of the ICT education solution. With little investment in upskilling, they can become ICT tutors and teachers in schools. Imagine the kick-start this could give to ICT education!
Because of the rapid pace of innovation and disruption, learning from the past is no longer enough. We now also need to learn from the future. This presents a further opportunity for youth to contribute to a world in which our youth, along with innovators and global forerunners, are the best source of future trends. Companies should therefore deliberately engage with the youth to uncover infinite unexplored possibilities for their businesses in the future. I have been encouraging forward thinking companies to introduce co-mentoring where seasoned mentors are paired with younger co-mentors. This facilitates a mutual exchange of ideas and insights, which leads to futuristic thinking.
JOANNE BRINK: GIVEN YOUR PAST EXPERIENCE AS A TEACHER AND NOW A VOCAL ADVOCATE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON ONLINE LEARNING VS CLASSROOM LEARNING?
ALAN: Online learning has a valuable role to play in terms of just-in-time, anywhere/anytime learning, but it is largely limited to providing information only. Classroom learning, however, particularly with regard to young people, offers much more in terms of an emotional connection between the learners and the facilitator. Collaboration, critical thinking, decision making, leadership, teamwork, reflection and problem solving are cited as critical skills for the future. These so-called “soft skills” cannot however be learned as effectively online. In addition, classroom tuition facilitates socialisation, which can be used to create focus and nurture collective consciousness. The same can be said for adult learning.
In conclusion; the eternal, universal methods of teaching children that have worked for thousands of years should not be abandoned in the quest to expedite ICT skills development, but what, how and when we learn has to evolve to the next level. The tragedy is that it is unlikely that the education system will get there early enough.
Joanne Brink is the founder and CEO of Brighter Futures (www.brighterfuture.co.za). Together with university students & graduates employed as tutors and centre managers, Brighter Futures offers Microsoft certified programmes at their Coding Cafes in 25+ school centres in the Gauteng region with a growing footprint. The Coding Cafe offering has emerged as a result of their success in maths tuition, with parents, teachers and learners in awe of the difference they have made in the lives of those they have engaged with.
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine (www.hrfuture.net), which prepares people and companies for the future of work. He is a leadership development expert who specialises in developing leaders of all ages to reboot their leadership skills for the future. His company, Osgard, is an authorised reseller for a world-first Artificial Intelligence technology that digitises human expertise. In 2018, Alan was named by US web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the “Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter”.