Preparing for the future world of work through STEM

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela 

These words ring true now more than ever as South Africa, as with the rest of world, experiences and transitions into a radical period of change presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). A period which necessitates everyone to be open to learning, re-learning and discovery. 

The World Economic Forum (WEF) describes the 4th industrial revolution as the advent of “cyber-physical systems” involving entirely new capabilities for people and machines. It represents entirely new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even our human bodies. 

Man vs Machine or Machine working for Mankind? With all these big words and terms associated with the imminent 4th Industrial Revolution being spoken about… robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, cyber, cryptomay make the ‘giant leap’ into the digital era an intimidating exercise for manyHowever daunting, the digital era presents a myriad of opportunities for innovation and technological advancement for South Africa as an enabler of human and skills development, business driver and economic growth. 

Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Ms Stella NdabeniAbrahams, has been actively driving the message on 4IR and laying the foundation to build a capable and skilled work force. At the heart of 4IR is human centred focus and we need to ensure an inclusive process to ensure no one is left behind, she said. 

We shine the spotlight on an organisation that is playing its part in the education field and making great strides to arm young girls from previously disadvantaged communities with the required skills for the future world of work through mentorship, empowerment programmes and exposure to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and related careers. 

Technogirl Trust 

The TechnoGirl Trust exists to deal with South Africa’s skills shortage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by encouraging girls to choose STEM subjects in high school. Girls from Grade 9 onwards from disadvantaged communities are placed in corporate mentorship and job shadowing programmes. Since inception in 2005, more than 11,000 girls have benefitted from the programme.  

Brand South Africa recently joined the Technogirl Trust for the Young Women for STEM in Africa programme in partnership with the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Liana Meadon, Senior Manager: Academic Development Centre stated that the partnership is driven by efforts to close the gender gap in STEM and the programme provided a great platform to motivate and inspire young women to take up careers in the STEM field. 

The young girls also had the privilege to hear from Dr Tebogo Mashifana, a young woman who is a Senior Lecturer at UJ’s Department of Chemical Engineering Technology, nominee of the 2019 Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans and motivational speaker making waves in the STEM field. She inspired the girls, telling them that they are capable of achieving anything they put their minds to and shouldn’t let their backgrounds define their destiny. “I look at you and see future engineers, future scientists, and future leaders in the 4th industrial revolution”, she said. Dr Mashifana concluded by telling the learners that the world is rapidly changing and education and hard work are key to a brighter future. The interest and participation in STEM will set them apart and enable them to participate in mainstream careers of the future as digitalisation and the future world of work will be driven by those equipped in the STEM field 

The technology driven future affords us the opportunity to redefine our society and explore the future of a digitally enabled economy and countries transformation that is fair, inclusive, sustainable and competitive. As Brand South Africa, we encourage all citizens, not only the youth, to actively get involved in the 4IR and digital economy dialogue and skills development initiatives. It’s not only for government or businesses to adopt and master the digital era, but for all to take part, benefit and contribute towards the growth of the economy and SA’s competiveness.