Last week, Thursday the 15th of November, I was privileged to convene a symposium challenging the relevance of university and college curriculum in meeting the need for work-ready skills, in relation to the future of work. We also asked the question, are learning and development practitioners preparing employees with suitable skills for the future of work? Highly informative and thought-provoking papers presented by all five speakers and engaging discussions with the delegates.

Seen in the pictures below are some of the speakers and delegates at the symposium.

Here is a summary of the salient points from each presentation;

ETD Re-imagined! A Snapshot of the Presentations.

First paper: Are Universities and Colleges up to speed with their curriculum development? By Professor Nombeko Mpako (UNISA) from Pretoria. She spoke in her personal capacity.

“My personal opinion is that I DO NOT THINK AND BELIEVE THAT UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES ARE UP TO SPEED in addressing pertinent issues pertaining to Education Training and Development in order to be abreast with the rapidly changing industries and or world of work.  With regards to the curriculum development my view is that there are issues which require urgent attention such as reconsideration of the…experiential training model as well as incorporating entrepreneurial skills within all qualifications offered by universities and a lot still needs to be done…The issue of employability of graduates…could be dressed through experiential training in partnership with various industries”.

She went on to state that studies have shown that countries that have entrepreneurial education and training as part of their education curriculum have obtained greater results in fuelling economic growth.

She concluded by saying that the problem of unemployed graduates can be minimized by restructuring the educational curriculum through partnership development between institutions of higher learning and the relevant employment providers. This partnership will ensure that the knowledge and skills developed through education are in line with the changing needs of industries, thus addressing the skills mismatch that contributes to rising graduates’ unemployment.

Second paper: An alternative way to prepare youth for leadership by Mr Chris Meintjes, CEO of Activate! Leadership, Cape Town.

Chris challenged the delegates on how to grow leaders with vision. He emphasised the need for growing the ‘right’ mindsets, including the need for entrepreneurial mindset, mindset for success, for critical thinking and problem solving, mindset for effective written and oral communications, for collaboration across networks. Mindsets for agility, adaptability and initiative. He stressed education as a catalyst to achieving these mindsets. He also highlighted opportunities for leadership development and for social entrepreneurial leadership and lifelong learning on the job, in the family and within the community.

Paper: How are human resource policy makers and regulators coping? By Mr Meshack Tafa, COO and Deputy CEO of the Human Resource Development Council in Botswana.

Meshack prefaced his presentation by giving some background to some of the work being done at their Council in addressing key National Human Resource Development (HRD) challenges. For example, they have plans to respond to the stakeholder need to have equitable access to a wide range of employment opportunities and high-quality jobs that will build the foundation for a future knowledge economy and provide ‘high knowledge–high-wage’ employment.

As a country, they are also looking at the skills mismatch in terms of training and education, being skewed to certain areas that are now in surplus not being absorbed by the labour market as well as the lack of entrepreneurial skills, which are key for self-employment and driving economic diversification through small and medium enterprises.

They have also resolved to introduce STE(A)M. In line with the changing global trends, the NHRDP has identified the need to incorporate the role of the ‘Arts’ in STEM, hence changing to science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – STEAM for short.

“There is need to introduce STEAM curricula from pre-primary to tertiary education, and to incentivise girls and women to join STEAM fields to bridge existing gaps in the system”.

Paper: The impact of the 4th industrial revolution and artificial intelligence on jobs by Dr Kgabo Badimo, Founder and CEO of Badimo Group Consultancy in Johannesburg.

Dr Badimo spoke about Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies that are not only changing the business value chain ecosystem but also transforming the world of work. They are re-shaping the profiles and skills needed. He cited research that indicates that within the next two decades, a staggering 47% of jobs will be made redundant thanks to digitalisation.

He disputed the growing public view that AI systems will be detrimental to the workforce and that AI will be used to automate humans out of relevance as being untrue. He admits, though, that AI systems will change the workforce but not at the expense of workers.

In response and preparation for these changes, he suggests, “companies need to build robust talent pipelines to stay competitive in their industry. An action framework could help to establish an ecosystem for re-skilling and right skilling: recognising current and future skill requirements”.

Companies must now focus on skills such as complex problem-solving skills, strategic and critical thinking skills. Skills in creativity and imagination, leadership and people management as well as skills in coordinating with others.

Regardless of the future of work, skills in emotional Intelligence, judgement and decision-making and service orientation will still be required. So, will skills in negotiation and cognitive flexibility be necessary, even in the future of work.

In conclusion, change won’t wait for us: business leaders, educators and governments all need to be proactive in up-skilling and retraining people, so everyone can benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Vote of thanks and closing remarks: The future of work is exciting! Dr Jerry Gule, CEO of the Institute of People Management in Johannesburg

Dr Gule was upbeat and gave a fitting vote of thanks and a call to action as he challenged delegates and speakers alike, to look forward to an exciting future of work. He elucidated a point that the future of work is people by explaining that the focus of the future of work must be on employees. Attention and effort must be paid to the people with a view to re-skilling them and positioning them to take on those roles that a machine may not be able to easily take over.

Conclusion and the next steps

Professor Mpako ended her paper with the following statement, a suitable conclusion to this summary;

“Ladies and gentlemen, let us begin this conversation”

Join us for the sequel to this symposium; How should we prepare for the future of work? It’s happening in Cape Town on April 29th and 30th 2019. The afternoon of the second day will incorporate a tour of the mother city and a cocktail in the evening. Save the date and secure your seat now for an early registration discount.



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