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The critical relationship between job skills and education was highlighted by The World Economic Forum’s video: Employment Skills and Education (view above). In this video, the WEF identified the following critical gaps between job skills and learning:

  1. More than 61 million jobs have been lost since 2008.
  2. This has resulted in more than 200 million people currently unemployed globally.
  3. The youth unemployment rate is nearly three times higher than the rest of the population.
  4. Nearly 500 million new jobs will need to be created by 2020.
  5. Almost 90% of the job creation needed must take place in the developing world – primarily Africa and Asia.
  6. Educators and employers must work together to address education, skills and the unemployment challenge.
  7. For individuals, businesses and economies to stay competitive, current and expected skills gaps need attention.
  8. Entrepreneurship, SMEs and the gig economy are potential solutions, as well as reforms aimed at building human capital.
  9. Our 20th century education system needs to be redesigned to meet the real-time needs of the labour market.
  10. There is a need to develop 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, collaboration and digital literacy. This can be accomplished through lifelong learning, re-skilling and upskilling programs based on accurate data about education, skills, demand, supply and employment needs.

In relation to Africa, in May 2017, The World Economic Forum published The Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa: Preparing the Region for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This report looks at Africa’s position in respect of education, skills and jobs. Here are some of the key points raised:

  1. The World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Index finds that Sub-Saharan Africa currently only captures 55% of its human capital potential, compared to a global average of 65%.
  1. By 2030, the continent’s working-age population is set to increase by two-thirds, from 370 million adults in 2010 to over 600 million in 2030.
  1. It is predicted that 41% of all work activities in South Africa are susceptible to automation. The concern raised is around the capacity to adapt to disruptions to the labour market. This includes new skills requirements, new occupations, new ways of organizing and co-ordinating work and the tools used in relation to these new occupations.
  1. Employers have already identified that a major constraint to business is inadequately trained and skilled staff. The WEF notes that this may get worse as core skills are being replaced to deal with the transition to digital technologies. In South Africa alone, the WEF notes, 39% of core skills required across occupations will be wholly different by 2020.
  1. The WEF’s report identifies that there will be strong demand for professionals who can combine digital and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills with traditional subject expertise. The report goes on to state that the transition to a more ecologically sustainable economic model has the potential to create millions of new jobs globally, including in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report says that it’s estimated that by 2025 South Africa alone could create 462,000 additional jobs by “going green” through clean energy generation, energy efficiency, pollution control and natural resource management.

And whilst there are significant changes and opportunities ahead, the WEF points out some of the challenges that need to be addressed:

  1. There is currently a lack of coordination between Africa’s primary, secondary and tertiary education providers. The region’s pre-primary, technical and vocational, adult training and non-formal education systems remain unevenly developed.
  1. Currently sub-Saharan Africa also retains the largest gender gap in the education of girls and boys of any world region, limiting the breadth of Sub-Saharan Africa’s available talent pool and furthering social and economic disparities between women and men later in life.
  1. For those who are enrolled in schools and universities, African education systems’ quality and ability to meet the needs of a competitive economy, as perceived by respondents to the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey. The report suggests that learners are not acquiring the knowledge and skills required for today’s economies and societies.

What are some of the solutions identified in the report?

  1. It’s recommended that Africa’s educators should design future-ready curricula that encourage critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence as well as accelerate acquisition of digital and STEM skills to match the way people will work and collaborate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  1. There is a need to create a more robust education system that includes:
  • expanding access to early-childhood education;
  • ensuring the ‘future-readiness’ of curricula;
  • investing in developing and maintaining a professionalized teaching workforce;
  • early exposure to the workplace and career guidance;
  • investing in digital fluency and ICT literacy skills;
  • providing robust and respected technical and vocational education and training (TVET);
  • creating a culture of lifelong learning; and
  • openness to education innovation.

What does this mean for business?

The report identifies that economies across Sub-Saharan Africa have not fully leveraged the opportunities offered by Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), with formal enrolment standing at only 6% of total secondary and post-secondary enrolment across the region.

WEF argues that more learning will need to take place in the workplace and there should be a greater private sector involvement. This would mean that employers offer more learning opportunities to their workers in partnership and collaboration with governments, schools, universities and non-formal education providers.

Closing perspective from WEF report

“Education and work in Sub-Saharan Africa will determine the livelihoods of nearly a billion people in the region and drive growth and development for generations to come. As one of the youngest populations in the world, it is imperative that adequate investments are made in education and learning that holds value in the labour market and prepares citizens for the world of tomorrow. In addition, as the global transformation of work unfolds in Africa, policymakers, business leaders and workers must be prepared to proactively manage this period of transition.”