Dr. Kipkirui Langat

Last week, The Indo Pacific Business Summit held a conference on Future of Jobs: Skilled Workforce to meet Employment Opportunities in the New World Order where I was privileged to be part of the speakers. During the discussion, it merged that over the past decade, a set of ground-breaking and emerging technologies have signalled the start of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). In order to capture the opportunities created by these technologies, companies across the world have embarked on a reorientation and transformational drive, leveraging on digitization and technology. More importantly as a result of the Pandemic, the pace of technology adoption is expected to remain unabated and may accelerate in some areas.

Globally, Industry 4.0 is gaining popularity due to rapid improvements made in the cyber computing capabilities in the last few decades. Largely driven by four specific technological developments namely high-speed mobile Internet, Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, the use of big data analytics, and cloud technology which are expected to have the most significant impact on employment figures within the global workforce. The digital transformation has impacted across sectors. Technology has already begun to change the way we organize tasks into jobs, for example robotics and robotic process automation have transformed manufacturing and warehouses, the retail sector has reorganised its business strategy and have started focusing more on online delivery of products. Also Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data are helping with personalisation while Cloud Computing has enhanced data protecting.

In Banking and Financial services, digital way of interaction is fast becoming the new normal as artificial intelligence and machine learning are taking centre stage. Hospitals and healthcare service providers are implementing virtual consultations that can be done through audio and video conferencing tools which has led to significant rise of telemedicine.

Education sector has also undergone a huge transformation as the outbreak forced schools, colleges and universities to shut down. There has been a distinctive rise of e-learning models. Although the physical educations institutions have reopened in a number of countries across the world, digitization and integration of technology with education is getting accelerated and online education has become an integral component of school education creating a hybrid model with significant benefits.

The Future of Jobs Report 2020 by World Economic Forum has predicted the loss of some 75 million jobs worldwide by 2022 but at the same time 133 million new jobs will be created requiring new sets of skills. As a result of this, the division of labour between people and machines is expected to continue to shift toward machines, especially for repetitive and routine tasks. The future jobs are expected to be more machine powered and data driven than in the past, but they will also likely require human skills in areas such as problem-solving, communication, listening, interpretation, and design. In the near future, roles that leverage distinctively human skills, such as Customer Service Workers, Sales and Marketing Professionals, Training and Development, People and Culture, and Organizational Development Specialists as well as Innovation Managers, are expected to grow.

To prepare for the employment scenario that has been impacted by the future, the entire skill ecosystem will need to be reoriented and reorganised. There is a critical need to start skilling our potential workforce with a view on the emerging technologies and the future of work. For the industry, crafting a sound lifelong learning system, investing in human capital and collaborating with other stakeholders on workforce strategy should thus be key business imperatives, critical to companies’ medium to long-term growth, as well as an important contribution to society and social stability.

According to the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), India, more than 50% of entry level job postings in digital technologies require certifications, rapid upskilling and reskilling in order to help students and professionals transition into these job roles. To prepare for the industry 4.0 and emerging technologies, workers will need to have appropriate skills enabling them to thrive in the workplace of the future and the ability to continue to retrain throughout their lives. Business are also becoming aware that reskilling employees is both cost-effective and has significant mid-term to long-term dividends, not only for their enterprise but also for the benefit of society more broadly. Through reskilling, industries can expect to create a workforce of future-ready talent.

The demand of skilled workforce has provided excellent opportunity for a number of countries to develop a high-quality trained workforce for the rest of the world especially for countries and regions with an ageing or declining national population.  For countries with surplus workforce like Kenya, it is important to focus training in market-relevant skills, with emphasis on the emerging technologies to leverage the job opportunities in global job market.

As a way forward, with jobs becoming more and more standardized across the world and required skillsets becoming more alike, this is the time for countries in general and training providers in specific to come on a common platform and discuss the ways ahead in terms of developing the workforce for the future, and how they can collaborate and create a vibrant skilling ecosystem. The future beckons collaborative employment exchanges and global skilling programmes ecosystems.

The author is the Director General/ CEO, TVET Authority

E-mail: langat.langat@tveta.go.ke