African port operators need to formulate Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) strategies and should take into account the skills readiness and the skills development required to adjust and adapt accordingly, Transnet National Ports Authority research and development senior specialist Thamsanqa Basi said this week.
During a presentation at the Southern African Transport Conference, he explained that while the full potential of the 4IR was yet to be realised, particularly in emerging markets, South Africa had a huge advantage, especially considering that simulations and digital skills demand were on the rise.
South Africa’s coastline stretches across 3 000 km and is said to be strategically located, with easy access to and fast routes to other important regions across the globe, such as the Far East.
As disruptive technologies, particularly digital technology, became more widely deployed in workplaces, education and training providers would face the challenge of understanding the implications of such change to effectively adapt training course offerings, Basi elaborated.
Disruptive technology can also impact on how and where students learn, with education and training increasingly available online through massive open online courses.
In effect, this means that the African education system will need to create workers with the skills and competencies required to thrive in a continuously changing environment.
However, while the 4IR provided opportunities for companies, ports among them, to revamp or create entirely new offerings and business models – especially considering that a preference for more flexible and customisable outputs over standard product offerings is emerging – Basi warned that African ports would face several challenges in implementing 4IR developments.
He told delegates that any changes to accredited training courses would require a multi-year national consultation process, especially the processes that create, update and endorse the training curriculum.
Additionally, African ports will face bureaucratic red tape and unnecessary details, which means that the existing training systems will be “sluggish” in responding to emerging needs in a timely fashion.
Providers of accredited training will have limited freedom to respond rapidly to changes in technology and their skills requirements, putting them at a competitive disadvantage to international training providers that have greater flexibility to change the content of their training courses.