Monash addresses future tech and skills development needs

The first African Business Incubator and Tech Camp took place last week in Johannesburg in order to enhance the skills and knowledge required for future generations to adapt to 4th Industrial Revolution challenges. The gathering also highlighted the requirements to establish an incubator program in a country like South Africa, where there are currently 120 incubation centres, in comparison to China which has 4 500 facilities of this nature.

The South African Business Technology Incubation Association (SABTIA), a non profit association that promotes and coordinates business Incubation, partnered with Monash South Africa (MSA), one of South Africa’s leading private higher education institutions and the City of Ekurhuleni to host the SABTIA Tech Camp 2018, the first of its kind, on 25 – 26 September 2018.

The two-day conference supported by the Department of Small Business Development received a welcoming address by Honourable Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Small Business Development, who elaborated on government's mandate to support small business in order to drive the South African economy and curb unemployment. This focus stems from the increased importance as highlighted in the State of the Nation address by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this year. The event saw partners work together with incubators and accelerators across the country to look at skills and technical issues that face their ecosystem in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Yashin Brijmohan, Executive Dean: Faculty of Business, Engineering and Technology at MSA and Vice President of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations said, “a different set of skills and attributes are required for the new knowledge era which is now upon us; some of the skills being critical thinking, cognitive flexibility, coordinating with others and emotional intelligence. Along with these skills requirements are the evolving jobs sets in the technology space which include big data and analysis, space engineering, additive manufacturing and artificial intelligence or robotics.

He continued to state that if South Africa would like to showcase significant progress in education and the 4th Industrial Revolution, a systemic approach is required to develop capacity and capabilities to leverage of existing opportunities and create new ones. “We need to develop a sustainable way for us to solve our problems and create new opportunities for the advancement of a collective society”, Brijmohan advised.

The last day of the conference wrapped up with an overview of research on the impact of private sector led Enterprise Development Programmes in South Africa. The gathering also highlighted insights into what is required to establish an incubator program in a country where there are currently 120 incubation centres, in comparison to China’s 4 500 facilties of this nature.

There is still a vast gap to be filled in terms of training entrepreneurs through skilled moderators but also to equip Incubators and Accelerators with academic qualifications that can bring their certifications to their line of business which was unveiled over the two days.

Michael Reddy, speaker and SABTIA board member, suggested a way forward for incubation programs to include academic training for all levels of personnel within these incubation and accelerator centers including entry level training for all staff, both junior and senior, as well as an advanced commerce degree for management staff at incubators. SABTIA is partnering with MSA to provide these two courses along with other modules related to entrepreneurship.

Training methodology will involve collaboration with industry experts delivering a mix of theory and practical learnings in all sessions. SABTIA is looking to continue to host annual conferences of this nature to spearhead the certification and regulation of entrepreneurs. MSA, as a partner in education, will lead the academic partnership to ensure entrepreneurs stay abreast and are looking ahead in terms of the requirements of industry 4.0.