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Skilling and reskilling students for relevance in a 4IR economy

14 pagesPublished: November 24, 2022


The disruptive nature of technologies such as artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing nanomaterials and robotics has decidedly made the workplace of the future more complex, with traditional skillsets falling short in addressing the demands of the 4IR era. The authors discuss the need for current tertiary students to be skilled for futuristic, technology driven jobs in a 4IR economy. This paper examines the current school curriculum, vis-a –vis the literature on what the 4IR economy requires of its workforce. We submit that the current curriculum for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses at most South African universities do not align with skills requirements for a 4IR economy. A methodical, structured literature review was conducted for the purpose of this research. The PRISMA framework was employed to select the relevant literature for the study. After screening and elimination of articles, 26 sources remained and were included in the study. The study proposes four critical success factors that government can adopt in order to formulate strategic and sustainable plans to ensure that students are appropriately skilled and positioned to operate in a competitive 4IR economy once they graduate. The literature reveals a disjuncture between the current STEM curriculum and the required skillset required in a 4IR economy. The challenge leads to a state of unpreparedness of students in handling the fast approaching revolution in skills demand. The authors also found that soft skills, ideation, creativity and problem solving, which are not taught at school are critical for the workforce of the future. Probable solution to the skills gap challenges is the implementation of content knowledge, incorporated with experiential techniques. This will lead to the shift from the institutions of higher education to the individuals through investing in skilling and reskilling students in practical ways. Future research should focus on how government, Industry and academia can effectively collaborate in ensuring that students are trained to apply content knowledge in creative ways which can solve many of the continent’s problems. The findings reveal that government must work closely with academia and industry towards the goal of graduating skilled, employable graduates in the 4IR economy. Future research will investigate the extent to which students are being skilled by faculty to face future challenges.

Keyphrases: 4IR, Curricula Design, higher education, Reskilling, Student Skilling

In: Hossana Twinomurinzi, Nkosikhona Msweli and Tendani Mawela (editors). Proceedings of NEMISA Summit and Colloquium 2022: The Future of Work and Digital Skills, vol 4, pages 88--101

BibTeX entry
  author    = {Olutoyin Olaitan and Nosipho Mavuso},
  title     = {Skilling and reskilling students for relevance in a 4IR economy},
  booktitle = {Proceedings of NEMISA Summit and Colloquium 2022: The Future of Work and Digital Skills},
  editor    = {Hossana Twinomurinzi and Nkosikhona Msweli and Tendani Mawela},
  series    = {EPiC Series in Education Science},
  volume    = {4},
  pages     = {88--101},
  year      = {2022},
  publisher = {EasyChair},
  bibsource = {EasyChair,},
  issn      = {2516-2306},
  url       = {},
  doi       = {10.29007/qf6m}}
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