A bespoke solution for South Africa’s skills shortage and job losses, developed by UWC, in partnership with the MICT SETA.

South Africa, 29 November 2021: The University of the Western Cape welcomed a delegation from the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA) to the campus on Monday, 29 November.

This gathering of great minds was aimed at addressing the scarce skills gap and expediting the adaptation of 4IR in South Africa as a proactive response to current consensus with research communities. Amongst them a recent survey by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), which concluded that South Africans are worried about losing their jobs to automation, and many are uncomfortable with the benefits and modernisation of technology and artificial intelligence (AI). It also found that while the country is ‘cautiously upbeat’ about the digital economy, between 40% and 50% of respondents lack a basic knowledge of new technologies.

Mr Matome Madibana, Acting CEO at MICT SETA said: “This partnership with UWC is a critical step towards South Africa’s economy remaining competitive alongside our global counterparts. We can achieve this through effective incorporation of digital transformation that enables organisations to leverage technologies that create value, deliver new services, innovate and adapt to the rapidly changing environment.”

“As the MICT SETA we are forging ahead to address the very real, lived concerns, of 73% of adults that believe that in the next 10 years, machines or computer programmes will assume many of the jobs currently done by humans. By empowering them with skills for the future we allow our communities to reimagine a prosperous future, as well as build a new reality for the 6 out of 10 employees who are worried that automation will threaten their job security”, he added.

“Investing in Masters and PHD students as well as the research chair programme, led by the distinguished Prof. B. Antoine Bagula, empowers us to do just that. While our inclusive approach sets us apart. This programme offers UWC’s students a wealth of knowledge and scarce skills that are in line with the needs of the job market in South Africa and is part of a hybrid of interventions and partnerships that the MICT SETA has undertaken in line with our mandate to grow the pool of skills in information and communication technologies,” notes Gugu Sema, Acting Senior 4IR Manager at MICT SETA.

Sema further referenced the National Skills Development Plan 2030 objectives as the North Star to delivery and in particular: Raising economic growth, promoting exports and making the economy more labour absorbing; Focusing on key capabilities of both people and the country; Capabilities include skills, infrastructure, social security, strong institutions and partnerships both within the country and with key international partners; Building a capable and developmental state. In so doing, South Africa is on track to meeting the targets set out in the Economic Reconstruction Recovery Plan.

The MICT SETA delegation, led by Board and Exco Chairperson, Mr. Simphiwe Thobela and ACEO Mr Matome Madibana, as well as UWC academics spent much of the day discussing high level skills and understanding the priorities for South Africa which UWC is offering and building. UWC students who have been studying augmented and virtual reality demonstrated their projects and showing how this high-level technology can be used in learning and teaching, in research and in industrial applications.

They were also introduced to UWC’s new Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) which is located in the Bellville CBD.

The 3000m2 building will host the development of both academic and non-academic applications of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), technology innovation, business incubation, business development and entrepreneurship. The hub will feature a virtual reality and augmented reality showroom facility that will enable staff and students to learn AR and VR technology in an immersive space, while also finding innovative solutions for industry and the world of work, including virtual training facilities for industrial and public sectors.

“Our partnership with the MICT SETA is one for the history books on how academics can effect positive change. The University of the Western Cape is among the first in South Africa and the continent to offer the Postgraduate Diploma in e-Skills Development. It is just one example of our commitment to research, development and innovation in the quest to find solutions to global challenges, including COVID-19,” said Professor José Frantz, UWC Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation.