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The Role of Education in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: A Perspective From Africa

Joe Kornik, Director of Brand Publishing Editor-in-Chief of VISION by Protiviti

What does the curriculum of incoming college freshmen in 2022 have to do with how we work in 2030? A lot, according to Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-President and Principal of the University of Pretoria in South Africa, as 2030 will be just the beginning of their careers in a future that’s anything but certain. So, it’s not accidental that Kupe’s university has launched a Centre for the Future of Work, both to prepare its students and to help reskill existing workforces in South Africa for the uncertain and complex world of work in the decades to come.

Getting Ahead of 4IR (The Fourth Industrial Revolution)

To successfully navigate the future work environment, says Kupe, students will need skills in not one but rather a slew of interrelated fields — from artificial intelligence to quantum computing to biotech, and they’ll need to beef up their learning with both hard and soft subject-matter classes, from math and computer science to art, design and the humanities. It’s almost as if the famous observation by Steve Jobs — that creative people connect experiences to synthesize new things, and that without enough diverse experiences, or enough dots to connect, solutions to complex problems will be too simplistic — is becoming the motto for the new workforce, and the educational institutions that prepare it.

“Given the limitations of machine learning, especially with regard to managing challenges associated with judgement, decision-making and interpretation, the humanities and the arts will continue to play an important role in shaping tomorrow’s workforce, recognizing that creativity is at the heart of all innovation.” — Prof. Tawana Kupe

Entrepreneurship Is the Fuel for Africa

With the youth unemployment rate in Africa as high as 46% in 2021, giving young people not just skills but also entrepreneurial opportunities is critical to the success of the continent. Digital technology will be a driving force as students apply diverse skills and digital literacy, such as those taught by the Centre for the Future of Work, to make opportunities for themselves. For companies that want to lead or keep up, reskilling their workforce and providing lifelong learning opportunities in partnership with educational institutions should become a priority.

You can read Kupe’s perspective in his own words here. For more visionary content on the future of work and other topics, subscribe to the VISION by Protiviti newsletter.

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