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By 30 July 2020 | Categories: Misc

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Will COVID-19 ultimately be one of the strongest catalysts towards futureproofing our workforce? Innovative education provider iXperience says that the fact that over 1.5 billion students are now learning Fourth Industrial Innovation (4IR) skills online could indicate a defining moment in the shift towards a new digital workplace. In lockdown, students are taking programmes that are rapidly filling gaps in their skill sets, which many ‘bricks and mortar’ institutions haven’t yet been able to fill.

Aaron Fuchs, CEO of iXperience, says it’s not just how we learn that’s changed. “COVID-19 has accelerated an inevitable need for a new skill set combining softer and harder capabilities. In a time when boundaries between the physical, digital and biological worlds are blurring, education must become increasingly practical and technology-led.”

He says that we’re witnessing a period of profound innovation, “We’re learning to use tech to create value in new ways. Healthcare data analysts have the opportunity to improve the quality of life for many people by helping doctors and scientists find answers to the questions they encounter on a daily basis. Or Apple and Google joining forces to embed a contact tracing app in smartphones. Or BroadReach using predictive data modelling to forecast virus hotspots. We’re seeing an unprecedented reliance on data and tech. That’ll seep into all sectors; including how we learn.”

DATA SCIENCE: A SKILL SET TO SOAR AMID THE PANDEMIC AND POST IT

Data science has long been a buzzworthy profession, but its relevance has only increased with COVID-19. “Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen an unprecedented reliance on data. People with data skills will be invaluable, now and in the future.”

Data science is extremely versatile, given the ubiquity of data across all sectors of modern society – from business to health and public policy.  It’s a highly in-demand skill set for the 4IR, combining the ‘hard’ capabilities of coding; data cleaning, manipulation, visualisation and analysis; statistics; big data techniques; and machine learning, with softer skills like complex problem-solving. 

Fuchs says, “This has been one of our most-in-demand courses during the pandemic and prior to it. Data science has been instrumental during COVID-19, from identifying virus hotspots and citizen behavioural trends to researching new treatments. Our Remote data science education programs focus on practical skills taught by industry experts, combined with a virtual internship component at an innovative company. This unique combination enables students to hit the ground running in any professional environment.”

OTHER 4IR-SKILLS PROVING INVALUABLE

Amid COVID-19, Fuchs also recognises a demand for ‘human’ capabilities like creativity, complex problem-solving, communication and empathy. “These are all skills that have been heralded as critical in the 4IR. COVID-19 has just ramped up their importance. In a time when companies are struggling to build and maintain culture with a remote workforce, communication and empathetic leadership have never been as important.”

Fuchs concludes, “We are focused on providing 4IR-appropriate skills that empower students to remain relevant, compete internationally, and start to close the skills shortage emerging in South Africa and worldwide. A significant part of this is instilling the entrepreneurial mindset that’ll give people the confidence to start their own ventures, given the global dearth of jobs.”

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