The South African banking sector (or a large unionised part of it) is due to protest/strike over job losses due to branches closing from progressions such as ATMs, online banking, and other automation largely from a 3IR (Third Industrial Revolution) era. I'm hearing politicians punting 4IR on a daily basis and in all their budget speeches but I'm really wondering if they've thought the impact through at all? Industry and business will evolve as competition (global and local) and market demand evolves regardless of how much 4IR is punted.
But the article linked to here is a good example of how we need to reskill and reshape a workforce in readiness for this. The reskilling does not happen in the short term otherwise a country could face mass unemployment. Change has always brought about newer and better opportunities. We've been through the inventions of cars, mobile phones, computers, the printing press, and much more and they have all created more employment for those who adjust to it. There has been a net increase in employment over time.
No-one will be immune to 4IR as executives, lawyers and managers face competition from AI and Machine Learning whilst factory workers and more routine jobs face competition from robotics. Humans are becoming the expensive, fault ridden and problematic part of the production/service chain.
So faced with all this, politicians should be driving the cultural changes needed for identifying the new opportunities that will arise and be catalysts for reskilling of workforces. Here in South Africa we still have many protected jobs such as cashiers, bag packers, petrol pump attendants, labourers digging trenches for fibre, etc but the wave of change coming with just electric vehicles will have a massive impact. Like newspapers going digital, that wave won't bypass South Africa, it's only a question of when it breaks.
There are actually a few initiatives largely driven from an economic perspective in government looking at this change and preparedness, but the focus should be more on the preparedness and not so much punting 4IR projects themselves... otherwise, we risk a further uprising from a fearful workforce as the pace of change increases.
#skills A human approach to reskilling in the age of AI
Investing in learning agility and core capabilities is as important for the individual worker as it is for the decision-making executive. Thinking openly can get us there.