IQ defines skills to future-proof the SA workforce

We are reminded repeatedly of the changing workplace environments and we witness the increased unemployment resulting from the move to digitization and the realities of the long term impact of the pandemic. As the business community, in the different sectors, we need to be fully cognizant of the changes and its impact on the skills development menu’s in the coming years ahead. We need to future proof our workforce, gearing them for future employment by impressing on every employee the need for versatility and agility in their skills arsenal.

A generation ago, our fathers would start at the foundational competence in a company and work their way up and serve 40 odd years, retiring with the gold watch. Those days were hard to see. The basic skills are now driven by AI (artificial intelligence), digitization and robotics. The skills required have shifted. The need for manual and physical skills, as well as very basic cognitive ones, started and will continue to decline but the demand for technological, social and emotional, and higher cognitive skills will grow.

Governments are keen to help their citizens develop in these areas but we seek deep clarity on what these skills are and to what extent do we need them.

McKinsey conducted research to help define the shape of these skills that would serve to future-proof citizens’ skills for the world of work. It found 56 foundational skills that will benefit all its people and show that higher proficiency in them is already associated with a higher likelihood of employment, higher incomes, and job satisfaction.

Defining foundational skills for citizens

If AI driven robotics and digital technology is going to take the more physical and basic level functions within the business, we need to ensure that we can add value in areas over and above this level. We need to make sure that our workforce has opportunities to embrace a digital world. South African citizens suffer setbacks in this area with the insufferable data prices.

We need to shake the lower level staff out of their comfort zone and make them aware of these development and impress upon them the need to continually adapt to new ways of working and new occupations.

McKinsey used academic research and years of experience to identify what the foundational skills would be. This research ties in with the research by Tony Wagner a few years ago when he saw the need for the 4C’s (critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration).

McKinsey started from four broad skill categories—cognitive, digital, interpersonal, and self-leadership—then identified 13 separate skill groups belonging to those categories. For example, communication and mental flexibility are two skill groups that belong to the cognitive category while teamwork effectiveness belongs to the interpersonal category.

As fundamental and interesting as this is, we need to put more energy into our skills development regimes in South Africa. Our quality council, through the SETA’s have not yet (based on my knowledge) added these skills imperatives to our qualification framework. I believe we are too slow to respond. We have changed our qualification structure but the more fundamental aspects of the changing skills dynamic have not been addressed. 

Employers are at the cold face of the skills shortage in the identified skills. IQ has the courses and the talent to lead this but without the regulatory environment endorsements they fall outside the accredited space and cost employers more.

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