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[OPINION] Will robots take your job? Maybe not

Many theories abound regarding how many jobs are likely to be replaced by robots in the imminent fourth Industrial Revolution, a topic that’s creating much debate at the World Economic Forum 2017 in Davos.

And while fears of robots taking human jobs are not unfounded, we offer a different way of thinking about it.

To begin with, governments and corporates now have an opportunity to review how people are educated in preparing them for a future where both humans and ‘robots’ share the same workspace.

But what about people’s jobs today?

There is renewed advocacy for lifelong learning.

Cramming most of the learning at the start of one’s life is simply not enough. Motivation and reward for lifelong learning is an imperative for all governments around the world.

And how does South Africa tackle its woeful global education ranking?

How the future unfolds, not just for our youth but also for the blue-collar worker whose skill has become automated, can likely be addressed through effective government-led interventions.

Learnings from Singapore suggest that citizens can receive vouchers that they can use to pay for training.

In Singapore, such “individual learning accounts” have given money to everyone over 25 to spend on courses from multiple approved providers.

At the same time, corporates and unions are involved in syllabus discussions with the providers as they know the kind of skill they will require a year from now.

In Britain, trade unions run training programmes which have garnered support from across the political spectrum.

Perhaps our trade unions could adopt a similar approach?

Ultimately, the discussion should not have to be about one replacing the other as we make technological advances as a global population.

The emphasis from World Economic Forum should perhaps promote the idea that as new businesses and offerings are developed, people are the ones to build, lead, maintain and market the innovations.

As a nation, we need both government and corporates to be ‘all-hands-on-deck’ to ensure that South Africans are not the population that woke up from slumber and these changes had happened to us.

Nkareng Mpobane is a fund manager at Ashburton Investments.

For more news, analysis and insights on Davos 2017 go to EWN’s WEF portal in partnership with Ashburton Investments.