Manufacturing Seta boss, Dr Raymond Patel, opened the 8th Pan African TVET Colleges Conference by sharing details on their research into the fourth industrial revolution - and how we can prepare for it.
Merseta CEO Dr Raymond Patel is the perfect person to talk about the next industrial revolution and the impact it will have on colleges and the broader training sector. His career has seen him work as a teacher, business owner, and for the last two decades, a Seta boss in the chemicals and then manufacturing sectors.
Fresh from some international travel where he was attending conferences and researching workplace trends, Dr Patel made the keynote address at the conference, held at the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town.
Patel reassured the delegates that the concept of Industry 4.0 was not just a catchphrase - the changes it describes are a reality.
The first industrial revolution was focused on mechanisation with water power. The 2nd was based on electrification. The 3rd industrial revolution was one that many today have lived through - the computer revolution.
The 4th revolution, Dr Patel explained as focuses on the cyber-physical systems we will see developing.
The future is not going to be a simple one as it will be characterised by chaos and order.
Patel highlighted the 'Industry of Things' (IOT) as a key disrupter for industry over coming years. "Where we see huge factories now, you will not see that in future as production changes. What does this mean for teaching and learning?"
Other significant factors in the future of work and learning include the development of self-driving cars and the growth of augmented reality solutions in the workplace.
There was some relief for people worried about losing jobs in the growth of Industry 4.0. Patel explained they the onset of computers did not lead to unemployment for typists - they could then re-train to get new skills.
But the future of chaos as these new trends develop in the economy means there will be many challenges for education and training sector.
The advice for workers in the new economy is that they need to embark on lifelong learning, continuous improvement, and self managrment of their lives and careers.
After many successful years at the helm of the Merseta, Dr Patel shared with delegates that he will be leaving the organisation at the end of March next year.
By Alan Hammond