JOHANNESBURG – The BRICS Business Council’s South African chapter has launched the inaugural BRICS 2018 Future Skills Challenge and Expo to discuss the future of work.

The expo drew entrepreneurs and innovators from the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which showcased the latest in cutting edge technology relating to the much-touted Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Gauteng school pupils also attended to witness the exhibition of future technologies in the fields of cyber-security, data analytics, automation, industrial robotics, 3D printing and drone technology, as well as other future skills in the engineering, transport, ICT and manufacturing sectors.

Speaking to Business Report on the sidelines of the expo, merSETA board chairperson Lebogang Letsoalo said the concept was launched in July in partnership with the BRICS Business Council Skills Development Working Group.

Letsoalo said they wanted to achieve and increase, among other things, bilateral and multilateral co- operation between BRICS countries as far as skills development for Industry 4.0 were concerned.

“We also want to ensure that innovation is informed by Industry 4.0 and that whatever is taught at institutions of higher learning is informed by advanced technology.”

She said the industry needed to start brainstorming ideas on how to align itself with the changing future of work.

“The current workforce has to be up-skilled for future jobs. Look at blue collar jobs, they are turning out to be white collar jobs now because of robotics and artificial intelligence,” said Letsoalo.

“The Internet of Things, cyber-security, robotics and drone technology - all of those things affect the future of work, especially work in the logistics sector.”

With almost 5.7 million jobs in the country reportedly currently at risk of digital automation within seven years, Letsoalo said merSETA was doing a lot of work in promoting 4IR and how industries needed to adapt to it.

“Going forward we will continue with the collaboration between the industry, academia and the education system as well. We want to bring practical solutions and build entrepreneurship skills in the manufacturing sector.”

BRICS Business Council SA chairperson Dr Iqbal Survé said: “It has become increasingly important to skill-up our young people. In particular, to participate in an economic system which is being promulgated by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

BUSINESS REPORT