“As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continue to evolve, the winners will be those who are able to quickly adapt to change, upskill themselves and fully participate in entrepreneurship and innovation- driven ecosystems, providing new business models and ideas rather than those who can only bring certificates to the table or only offer low skilled labor” Nicky Verd
American futurist Alvin Toffler wrote in 1970 in his book, ‘Future Shock’ which was publicized a lot in 1980s predicted that the illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write but one who cannot learn, unlearn, learn and relearn. This came as a result of the changing technologies that the world was witnessing. Toffler said that people will experience a cultural shock as a result of the various technological changes that were taking place in the world. Toffler also mentioned that there were three waves; The Agricultural Wave, The Industrial Wave and he was predicting the Information Wave. Many other people including legendary Peter Drucker agreed with Toffler on this.
Following the Coronavirus pandemic, people have been rethinking their careers and their professions especially in light of the emerging fourth industrial revolution technologies. Many people were laid off, others stayed home and worked from home, some simply left employment for one reason or another. As the pandemic eased out, there have been thoughts on what exactly people need to be able to do to survive. “In this new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it is the fast fish which eats the slow fish” Klaus Schwab. Some people have thought about changing their professions, some people whose businesses died out have restarted businesses and thus engaging in new careers. But all this depends on the ability of people to unlearn and relearn.
Unlearning is forgetting about knowledge and a skill that you know. For instance, if you have been trained as a statistician and over the years you have acquired the skills of a statistician, when you feel that this is an area that is no longer your calling, you need to unlearn that knowledge and skills and relearn something new. You may now be interested in digital marketing, this means that you are going to go out to acquire new skills in digital marketing. People should be able to relearn new things, new ways of doing things depending on what is required. Possibly relearning one of the ways in which people are going to reinvent their careers.
As the world evolves, some people are noticing that technology is exposing them to new opportunities. Lecturers in Universities have been walking to classrooms and teaching physical classes and after the physical classes they take some time meet with students; they have to go through the traffic back to their homes. The new emerging technology has enabled the lecturers stay in a home or office environment and deliver a lecture to different people in different places! The lecturer must unlearn the process of the physical lectures and relearn the new processes that the new technologies are bringing. This is also true for the learners. But is this possible in the third world conditions? Probably not. In adopting modern technologies, there are certain conditions that are necessary, what is famously known as the facilitating conditions; equipment and affordable internet. It may not be possible for many people in developing countries to consider relearning as one of the ways in which they are going to move into their new careers, it may be impossible because of those conditions. But those who find that they need new careers, they definitely need to relearn. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is specifically giving new challenges which need to be addressed and this hopefully will give people new lenses of life as they look at new professions.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is indeed impacting on Careers and Professions global today. There is no programme of study that does not have IT as one of the courses to study; be it Medicine, Engineering, Architecture, or Accountancy all these have been element of IT. New technologies which emerged in blockchain technology, internet thinking, robotics, machine learning, Artificial intelligence among others. This is what is driving the production of goods and services and driving the generation of Knowledge. The new skills that are required include coding, critical thinking, data analysis and others. Anybody who is in any Profession needs these skills. Therefore notable that IR is shaping professions and skills, it is important to realize there are some skills that will not go away. The soft skills of dealing with people those will still continue to be of great demand are interpersonal skills, leadership, communication, team building, emotional intelligence will continue to be important skills. To redefine our professions and careers, we definitely must adopt otherwise we will be like what Alvin Toffler said we will become obsolete. We must be able to unlearn what we know, learn new things in those areas where technology is replacing; but those which it is not we have to reinforce learning and become excellent performers in our careers.
“With the Fourth Industrial Revolution already upon us, it has become more crucial than ever before to develop essential skills among young Malaysians, who require not only data- driven skills, but also mental agility, particularly when disruption has become the norm in our everyday lives,” Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Author; Maureen Tweyongyere is Director, MUBS Career & Skills Development Centre and Member, National Taskforce on Labor Productivity