Lifelong learning is vital in today's fluid workplace

How do we prepare ourselves and future generations for jobs that don’t yet exist?

The World Economic Forum cites a popular estimate that 65% of children going into primary school today will pursue careers that don’t currently exist. Another report by Dell astonishingly pits this figure even higher, predicting that 85% of the jobs of 2030 don’t exist today. It may seem like sci-fi, but when one considers that the industry of augmented reality (AR) will probably climb its way to the value of $90-billion by 2020 – and virtual reality to $30-billion in the same time frame – it’s clear things are changing; a trend that’s evident in South Africa currently.

A recent article in Business Insider named the six most in-demand jobs in South Africa currently as: chief digital officer, data science executive, innovation officer, agile coach, customer experience executive and impact investment executive.

What do these jobs have in common? Andrew Johnston, CEO at MasterStart, says that most did not exist two to five years ago. “Given the competitiveness of the market – which will only increase with the increase in automation, having a sought-after and ever-evolving skillset is the best way to guarantee ongoing job retention.”

That’s why the greatest skill of the future is the ability to learn. Agility and adaptability – the two big ‘As’ of the 21st century both come down to learning. It’s the foundation for future capabilities and key to honing the inevitable collaborations between mankind and machine. Positively, South Africa’s workforce is already aware of the benefits of lifelong learning and open to pursuing it.

In a recent survey, MasterStart’s South African Workforce Barometer found that 80% of working South Africans planned to study further and 95% believed that studying further would help them remain relevant in their careers.

Johnston said that the MasterStart research found that self-enrichment was the main motivator for people to study, with 66% of the 1041 surveyed being motivated by this. Other key drivers were the desire to get promoted (54%) and the desire to keep abreast of changes in technology in my industry (41%), to gain confidence in my performance (40%) and anxiety around my job security (20%).

He believes this is likely to change over the next few years, as people increasingly realise how vital a fluid skillset is to their future employability. “Study is going to be essential to helping us remain relevant in a workplace which is constantly being dramatically altered by artificial intelligence, robotics or other rapid advancements in the workplace.”

Lifelong learning gives people the opportunity to upskill themselves and to bolster their resilience through renewed confidence in their capabilities. Johnston said corporates have a big role to play in encouraging employees to upskill throughout their working lives. “This is an area where we believe corporates really need to ramp up their investment so they build agile workplaces that keep up with the pace of change.”

He said for those who had already studied, the gains were clear. “Our respondents cited tangible outcomes such as a salary increase, promotion, growth, becoming more marketable and the comfort of a better future. They also gained better knowledge, became faster at tasks and felt more equipped to deal with people.”

58% of those surveyed like to receive study material online, with the most popular choice being books at 65% and face-to-face training at 63%.

Comments from working South Africans who have studied further.

· “Everything keeps on changing, and if you don’t learn new trend or styles within your job description you will lose out or be replaced due to lack of skills or even motivation to learn more.”

· “New insights, new knowledge gained, very relevant to continue learning even as we grow older, recruiters don't look at experience any more, they want certificates.”

· “I gained confidence, new skills, experience.”

· “You gain a better understanding of the business environment and its structures. Seeing the bigger picture. Better technical and people skills.”

For more information on lifelong learning visit