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The Future of Jobs : The Start of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Part 1)
The Future of Jobs : The Start of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Part 1)
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By - Aderonke Ajibade

Posted - 04-06-2019

One thing is constant, and it is “change”. The world is changing, and this change has been evident in the different industrial revolution.

A few weeks ago, I attended a focus group discussion on employment in a global world. The study was one I will advocate for every educational institution. It was geared towards understanding students perception on course contents and what they understand by employment in a global context. The discussion opened a new chapter on the skill requirement of businesses and companies. Each student was given an exercise to assess themselves on the various skills they possess that can benefit them in their future career path. Afterwards, the coordinator revealed the top ten skill requirement business owners look for in employees as drafted by the World Economic Forum survey. To my surprise, not one of my skill was on the list.  I am just one out of the many thousand graduates who are yet to understand the reality of the changing workspace. I was aware of the fast nature and change in technology; however, I was not fully prepared that I needed a new set of skill to fit into my future desired role. Times are changing, and so is the employment market.

The future is here, and it is the fourth industrial revolution. The Fourth Industrial Revolution refers to how technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and the internet of things are merging with humans’ physical lives.  Technological changes are drastically altering how individuals, companies and governments operate. This will lead to a societal transformation similar to previous industrial revolutions. This will change the way we live, work and interact.

The First Industrial Revolution started in Britain around 1760. It was launched through the introduction of the steam engine. The steam engine enabled new manufacturing processes, leading to the creation of factories.

The Second Industrial Revolution was between 1870-1914. It was characterized by mass production in new industries like steel, oil and electricity. The light bulb, the telephone and internal combustion engine were some of the critical inventions of this era.

The Third Industrial Revolution started in the 1960s. It is also called the digital revolution — the inventions of the semiconductor, the personal computer and the internet.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by a range of technologies which offers boundless possibilities. It is centred around the use of technology, which has its negative and positive sides. Fourth Industrial Revolution is to focus on the technologies driving it. These include the following:

  •    Artificial intelligence (AI) describes computers that can “think” like humans to recognize intricate patterns, process information, draw conclusions, and make recommendations.
  •    Blockchain is a secure, decentralized, and transparent way of recording and sharing data, with no need to rely on third-party intermediaries. The digital currency Bitcoin is the best-known blockchain application. The technology can also be used in making supply chains traceable, securing sensitive medical data anonymously, and combating voter fraud.
  •    New computational techniques are making computers smarter. They enable networks to process vast amounts of data faster than ever before, while the advent of the “cloud” has allowed businesses to safely store and access their information from anywhere with internet access, at any time.
  •    Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment. It places the user inside an experience. Instead of viewing a screen in front of them, users are immersed and able to interact with 3D worlds. By simulating as many senses as possible, such as vision, hearing, touch, even smell, the computer is transformed into a gatekeeper to this artificial world. Examples include L’Oreal’s makeup app which allows users to experiment with makeup products before buying them digitally
  •    Biotechnology uses cellular and biomolecular processes to develop new technologies and products for a range of uses, including developing new pharmaceuticals and materials, more efficient industrial manufacturing processes, and cleaner, more efficient energy sources.
  •    Robotics refers to the use of robots for personal and commercial use. Robots are used in manufacturing, health and safety, and human assistance.
  •    3D printing allows manufacturing businesses to print their parts, with less tooling, at a lower cost, and faster than via traditional processes. Plus, designs can be customized to ensure a perfect fit.
  •    Energy capture, storage, and transmission represent a growing market sector, created as a result of the falling cost of renewable energy technologies and improvements in battery storage capacity.

Also Read: THE FUTURE IS FEMALE

With the emergence of the fourth industrial revolution, companies and businesses are seeking to take advantage of the new and emerging technologies to achieve higher levels of efficiency in production, to expand to new markets and compete amongst significant competitor.

According to the World Economic Forum, companies will experience four specific technological advances; ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet; artificial intelligence; widespread adoption of big data analytics; and cloud technology.

By 2022, companies are likely to have expanded their adoption of user and entity big data analytics. Large proportions of companies are likely to have expanded their adoption of technologies such as the internet of things and app- and web-enabled markets, machine learning, virtual reality and to make extensive use of cloud computing. It is alleged that automation will lead to a reduction in full-time workforce by 2022.  With the automation of many jobs, new categories of jobs are emerging to replace those given over to the shift in work. Studies show that 65% of children entering primary school today will have jobs in categories that don’t yet exist.

There is an era of new roles and jobs that has just begun and the need for individuals with the desired skills are creeping in, the question is whose role is it to inform prospective employees of these changing times and teach them the skills necessary to function and be of use in their future career path and adapt to the ongoing technological change.

To build the workforce for the current industrial revolution, efforts need to be in place most especially by educational institutions and businesses to meet this workforce development challenge.

Businesses can create economic opportunity for millions of people by investing in education and training programme for existing and potential employees. Companies are great universities for educating the workforce of the future. They invest in training employees, as well as interns and apprentices, to drive growth and innovation, which in many cases amounts to specialized instruction and hands-on experience.

Curriculums in educational institutions should be flexible to adapt to changes in the workplace, they must be practicable and encourage critical thinking and innovative thinking.  Educational institutions should develop human potential which actively applies knowledge to collaborative problem solving.

Africa and the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

One major risk associated with the fourth industrial revolution is joblessness. A problem many African countries struggle with and which can be exasperated with poor governance and weak institutions. New technologies in the fourth industrial revolution can invariably amplify current inequalities. This is when the wealthy in the society only have access to improved technologies and lead to situations where the rich keep getting richer.  Rising inequalities can breed social problems in the societies. To avoid these many problems in Africa, there is a need to speed up the major public services such as electricity, education and be proactive in adopting new technologies.

Education is the way out of many of Africa’s problem, education which is not just quantitative but is qualitative. In as much as some African countries can boast of schools and educated youths Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (1970) reveals “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”. In the current environment, educational tools, curriculum and techniques used for decades now must change to fit the new changing world. These change should not be made only in schools for the rich but must trickle down and be accessible to public schools. African leaders must see education as a public goods whose quality is accessible to both the rich and the poor.  

The African government must focus on building strategies that can benefit the fourth industrial revolution if not the revolution will breed a serious problem for the continent. It boils down to using our numbers in a more productive way.

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