Future skills will focus on our interaction

November is entrepreneurship month, so I asked a guest writer, Melanie Vermaak, the People and Product Executive at Future Managers, to share about skills necessary for entrepreneurs in the future. Melanie has more than 30 years of experience in education.

What are the key future skills needed by entrepreneurs to get going in an environment of digital disruption?

Often, we hear it being said that we are training students for jobs that do not yet exist, and that technology is changing at such a rapid pace that we will never be able to catch up. Does this create panic? Are we ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR)?

Perhaps the panic around the 4th Industrial Revolution is not about training in technology but ensuring that we are prepared to embrace the changes that technology will bring to the way in which we function each day.

We need to ensure that when the time comes, we are able to take on the challenges of our changing society.

We know that the development of entrepreneurs is going to be a critical part of how we are able to meet our economic needs in the future. What does an entrepreneur need in their basket of future skills to be relevant in this new normal?

After the advent of steam, mechanisation and the weaving loom (i.e., the 1st Industrial Revolution), society changed from being an agriculture-based economy to that of a production- focused economy. Suddenly you did not have to be self-sufficient. You could become a part of the workforce and earn money to see to your needs. This also resulted in people specialising in certain tasks or skills. This was the advent of the artisan and provided the opportunity for the development of the entrepreneur.

The very fabric of society changed, and people had to adapt to these changes. Working for a wage or profit and then purchasing what you needed was a fundamental shift in the way in which society operated.

The Digital Revolution from 1975 onwards was characterised by the introduction of computers and digital storage of information. Information and telecommunications underwent massive changes during this time. The “Information Highway” is characteristic of this era.

All of this happened as part of a process. It was not a leap from one day to the next but a gradual shaping of economies, people, jobs, interactions on a human level and communication strategies.

Now we sit at the dawn of the 4th and 5th Industrial Revolution (others say the 4th Industrial Revolution is with us already) and what does that mean for us and how we work, interact socially, learn and play?

This is not going to be different. We are going to manage and embrace change.

We are already embracing this in online shopping and online banking. Imagine telling someone 50 years ago that you could use a cellphone, go online, order your groceries, pay for them and have them delivered to your door.

You would have been labelled insane, yet this is what we do on a daily basis.

Conversations are now around the metaverse and how we will navigate this. In a few years’ time, buying real estate in the metaverse will be the norm.

Technical revolutions are about increasing productivity and efficiency in order to provide for a growing population. This is a natural growth trajectory in the way in which we live on this planet.

Technical revolutions are also about how we live and interact differently with each other, how education changes, how we interact with our environment, business, finance, research, spirituality and a host of other systems.

Technical revolutions shape society and culture and can be a catalyst for changes that may be unrelated to actual technology.

While the 4th Industrial Revolution or 4IR, speaks to technology, robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, the Internet of Things and diverse ways of doing business, our responsibility as citizens of the global village is to ensure that our children are prepared with the necessary skills to embrace this change and be a part of the change.

The skills that are needed for all of us to survive the 4th Industrial Revolution have little to do with technology but rather a focus on the human element.

Generation Z born after 2000 are entrepreneurial-minded and are more likely to start a business before entering into formal studies.

They approach problems and solutions in a unique way. How are we teaching them? Are we giving them the critical thinking skills to be analytical people? Is our teaching equipping them to deal with the digital disruption that they are part of?

Generation Z has a social conscience, and we need to keep this in mind. Unfulfilled aspirations and expectations that are not met will lead to a frustrated group of young people. This could be a ticking social time bomb if their needs are not recognised and addressed. Entrepreneurial opportunity and activity must be provided and encouraged.

While we have been focusing on Generation Z, Generation Alpha, born from 2010, is waiting in the wings. Their learning is about innovation, being self-sufficient, prepared for challenges that face us all like global warming and war.

The future skills needed will be critical thinking skills, effective communication, ability to work in a group or independently, ability to manage conflict, innovation, creativity, emotional intelligence and ability to adapt to change. All of these skills have little to do with technology but how we interact with each other.

Without these skills the battle is going to be long and arduous.

So, should we be panicking? What we need to do is ensure that the next generation is prepared and equipped to manage the changes and find creative solutions for the problems that will still be discovered.

This will create the fertile ground for the development of skills and enable those with ideas to flourish.

● Steve Reid has started his own business in support of entrepreneurs, leaders and incubators and may be contacted at stevereid1406@gmail.com