Despite growing up with computers in their homes and smartphones in their hands, few young professionals feel they are prepared for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), according to a recent study by Deloitte.

The modern workplace is characterised by the marriage of physical and digital technologies, such as analytics, artificial intelligence, cognitive computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), Deloitte’s seventh annual Millennial Survey says.

Tumi Seakatso, the talent strategies leader for Deloitte’s Human Capital Southern Africa practice, says millennials and Generation Z feel they are not being prepared for Industry 4.0. “In their view, businesses are not responsive to their developmental needs,” Seakatso says.

“Just 36% of millennials and 42% of Generation Z respondents reported that their employers were helping them to understand and prepare for the changes associated with Industry 4.0.”

Millennials are people aged between 23 and 34, while Gen Z are those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s.

The survey found that 36% of millennials and 29% of Gen Zs who are currently employed believe they have the skills and knowledge required to flourish in Industry 4.0. 

Only 17% of millennials expect that digitisation will replace, or partially replace, their jobs, but 32% of millennials who work for organisations that use Industry 4.0 technologies extensively believe this will be the case.Lee-Anne Letcher, the product manager at Canon SA, says rapid advancements in automation, the IoT and voice activation will play a bigger role in how people work.

“In the next few years, we can expect to see automation and augmented robotics being used more consistently in the workplace, largely to remove the mundane, repetitive jobs that sap time and inspiration,” says Letcher.

A World Economic Forum report titled “The future of jobs and skills in Africa: preparing the region for the Fourth Industrial Revolution” found that in South Africa, 39% of the core skills required for all jobs will be different by 2020, while 41% of jobs are susceptible to automation.

A recent report by McKinsey found that 375 million workers around the world may have to switch occupational categories and learn new skills, because in about 60% of jobs at least one-third of the work can be automated.

Maura Feddersen, an economist at PwC, says encouraging young South Africans to study science, engineering and technology will be crucial if the country is to take advantage of emerging technology.

“Already, the nature of work is shifting, as emerging technology becomes integral to how businesses operate,” Feddersen says. “New jobs are emerging for those who produce and manage these intelligent systems.”

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