Education is undergoing a remarkable transformation. While these transformation present unmistakable challenges to scholars on the continent, the promises are equally enormous!
If you’re a student in Africa today, you should be worried – very worried.
The robots are coming and they’re taking over the workplace!
Presently, factory, retail and repetitive manufacturing jobs are increasingly being automated to enhance efficiency. According to McKinsey, mortgage origination, paralegal work, accounting, and back-office transaction processing are categories of activities that increasingly can be done better and faster with machines. Further, automation will displace nearly 13 percent of South Africa’s current work activities by 2020. Ethiopia, one of Africa’s manufacturing hubs, is facing automation in several key employment sectors like agriculture and textiles. In Botswana, robot workers are increasingly diminishing the bargaining power of labor union. Accenture Nigeria predicts that within five years, more than half of consumers and enterprise clients will select products and services based on a company’s AI capacity, instead of its brand. On a global scale, the World Economic Forum predicts a net loss of five million jobs to AI by 2020.
These are interesting times for employers on the continent. With rapid demonetization in technology, a continuous redefinition of work and the preeminence of digital natives making once expensive products/services way cheaper — and sometimes free, employers across industries and regions are left with no option than to “innovate or die.” CNBC’s October 8, 2018 publication chronicled 14 global brands that no longer need employees to have a college degree.
While these accelerated change and overwhelming complexities present unmistakable challenges to scholars on the continent, the promises are equally enormous. With that backdrop, this article seeks to help students and early career professionals prepare for the days ahead.
Create your own future with self-education
“Self–education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.“ – Isaac Asimov, American writer, and professor
If you’re reading this, by now you’re aware of the fact that education systems around the world have not kept pace with the changing nature of work resulting in companies not being able to get access to skilled workers. Further, the ongoing dialogue in Davos has revealed that the growing disparities in incomes of families around the world is traceable to the education one gets. “Literacy is no longer about extracting knowledge but about constructing knowledge.” In short, knowledge has become the real form of money and power.
Although unemployment is still rife, digital tools like freelancing platforms and networking websites like LinkedIn are rewarding smart, talented professionals with jobs and business opportunities by the minute. And, these platforms are also helping us understand some of the highly prized skills for thriving in this age of automation.
Progressively, there has been a unanimous consensus on the fact that soft skills like communication, leadership and critical thinking are needed for navigating today’s world of work. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “Soft skills—which are needed to effectively communicate, problem solve, collaborate and organize—are becoming more important for success as the workplace evolves socially and technologically.”
Hence, I strongly believe there needs to be a do-it-yourself approach to educating yourself today. If we could pay attention to choosing what we wear and what we eat, wouldn’t it make more sense to create our own direction? Doesn’t it make more sense to put your skills before you and manage them, instead of leaving it to chance?
“Workers of the future will spend more time on activities that machines are less capable of, such as managing people, applying expertise, and communicating with others. The skills and capabilities required will also shift, requiring more social and emotional skills and more advanced cognitive capabilities, such as logical reasoning and creativity.” – McKinsey & Company
Today, our challenge is not scarcity of information – we live in a world of super-abundant information – the real challenge is in excavating the right knowledge to help you remain relevant. Therefore, you can no longer wait to see what happens. Take advantage of the abundantly free and low-priced materials around us and prune your talents! Moreover, as the shelf-life of skills continues to shrink, if you’re not progressively improving your competencies, you will be left behind. According to LinkedIn, 90% of executives say that talent is the number one priority at their companies.
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Learn how to learn new knowledge and skills
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” — Alvin Toffler, American writer, futurist, and businessman
To begin with, these six guides shared by Michael Simmons can help you master any skill, and put you at a position of advantage in today’s digital economy:
- Identify valuable knowledge at the right time. With maturity and reshape of technology across industries, he says, there is often a deficit of people with the needed skills, which creates the potential for high compensation.
- Learn and master that knowledge quickly. Opportunity windows are not static, therefore, you have to spot the trends as quickly as possible.
- Communicate the value of your skills to others. Two people equally skilled at the same craft could earn very different salaries and fees. It all depends on their ability to sell and market themselves. Says Simmons, many people spend years mastering an underlying technical skill and almost no time mastering this multiplier skill.
- Convert knowledge into money and results. The value of information is the ability to use it and enrich your life. Don’t just learn to have information, get value for your education by applying it in “finding and getting a better job, getting a raise, building a successful business, selling your knowledge as a consultant, and building your reputation by becoming a thought leader.”
- Learn how to financially invest in learning to get the highest return. “Each of us needs to find the right “portfolio” of books, online courses, and certificate/degree programs to help us meet our goals within our budget,” Simmons says. If knowledge equals capital, then it makes sense to apply financial intelligence to your education.
- Master the skill of learning how to learn. Simmons stressed that our learning rate determines how quickly we can compound information over time. “Consider someone who reads and retains one book a week versus someone who takes 10 days to read a book. Over the course of a year, a 30% difference compounds to one person reading 85 more books.”
In her article entitled The Protégé Effect, Annie Murphy Paul, the author of Origins, gave a brilliant account of how teaching what you learned is the best form of learning. “Students enlisted to tutor others… work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately and apply it more effectively. In what scientists have dubbed “the protégé effect,” student teachers score higher on tests than pupils who are learning only for their own sake,” she wrote.
To quote Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, OECD, “we used to learn to do the work, now learning IS the work.
Transcend your environment
“With the rising digitization in today’s world and the ubiquity of the internet, ignorance is no longer acceptable.” – Tony Elumelu, Founder, The Tony Elumelu Foundation and Group Chairman, UBA Group
When I was in college, I always told my colleagues that the competition we’d face in the job market is not from students in Ghana but those elsewhere like Europe, America and so on. I always thought that we now live in a global village and internet penetration has removed most of the barriers. Therefore, you can longer assume that all you see in your immediate environment is all. That is the reason I left Nigeria to come to Ghana for my college education.
In the last few months, several headhunters from around the world (especially, India) looking to fill different roles have reached out to me on LinkedIn. The internet has given talent professionals access to a tremendous pool of candidates, thereby shifting the resource pool from industry or location to a higher-quality global population.
If your college or workplace does not have that form of global perspective, you can transcend your environment. It’s your responsibility to immerse yourself in global conversations. Don’t limit yourself to your coursework or job description. Don’t be hemmed-in by society, location or nationality. Create your own reality, develop your voice and find your place in the world.
Here’s an idea: Make out time to take part in community events and programs. Be part of a cause that’s bigger than yourself. If you cannot find an organization that serves your purpose, can you form one?
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from; it doesn’t matter whether you’re 24 or 42, if you have the skills for the future of work and know how to market it, you’ll win! In a time when many people are complaining about not finding work, I know several others who have more jobs than they can handle.
As I write this, software developer training and outsourcing company, Andela, just announced a $100 million Series D round funding to further scale their program. If you asked me, what is education today? I’d say it’s an ability to take ownership of your aspirations and grow in confidence that yields success. I believe we’re in an “alternative education” era when education is no longer about degrees or accolades. It’s about developing the capacity to solve problems – and getting adequate consideration in that process. Education today is a reprogramming of the mind.
Stop complaining; no one is listening. Take control of your life. You’ve got this!
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