University of Pretoria opens Centre for the Future of Work

Ten years ago, no one would have thought about becoming an engineer for driverless cars. Nevertheless, this is currently one of the jobs with the highest demand. Only a few years ago, blockchains were a novel concept, but they have since changed the information technology industry.

Researchers at the University of Pretoria (UP) are seeking to better understand what needs to be done to ensure that its students and the greater workforce are prepared for the future by looking at the types of occupations that are in demand today but did not exist 10 years ago.

In light of concepts like these, UP launched the Centre for the Future of Work (CFoW), a research hub with the mission of being the premier African excellence center for examining the future of work, publishing scholarly, popular publications,  offering training and consulting services.

It will help organizations or institutions future-proof their workforce by identifying what is needed to reskill, upskill, and train their staff. It will also educate university students for future positions in which they may need to succeed.

“We are living in a continuously changing environment and we need to create an inclusive, diverse, human-centered society that can prosper within an environment of technology and change,” says Professor Natasja Holtzhausen, Director of the CFoW. “This is in line with the concept of Society 5.0, a system where the combination of human skills, collaborative robotics, and artificial intelligence complement one another in the service of humanity and the planet.”

Academics, government stakeholders, foreign researchers, corporate players, and entrepreneurs will all play a crucial role in identifying potential holes in the future market as part of the CFoW, which is seen as a joint effort.

Academics, the government, business leaders, and those with expertise in social responsibility will all provide advice to the center to keep it operating. The CFoW has a structure for an advisory board made up of university stakeholders, Deans from each faculty in UP, and senior individuals from the local and international business and public sectors.

Working theories are evolving. The models currently in use will change drastically if these barriers are removed. As a result of changes in the healthcare sector, boundaries and location-based jobs have been erased. For instance, owing to virtual consultations, a doctor in KwaZulu-Natal can now diagnose a patient who resides in Johannesburg. Hybrid office working arrangements are becoming commonplace, and there are more entrepreneurs and contract workers than ever before.

However, as artificial intelligence and information technology development, fewer tasks will require human participation in the workplace, which could be disastrous for jobs. Developing a strong work ethic requires a cultural shift. This begins with a strong commitment to education Prof Holtzhausen stated.“We live on a continent where digital access and connectivity are seriously limited, and where millions of children do not own even one book. This is a vast issue, and it requires reinventing our public, school, and university libraries in every village and city.”

Prof. Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, believes that it is crucial for South African businesses to develop the next generation of workers, lower the unacceptably high unemployment rate and equip their current workforce for the future. “The arts, humanities, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are already integrating at a level never before seen.” The CFoW taps into the innovative, entrepreneurial, and creative abilities that new careers and jobs require of us.

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Future of work

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