Choose the field of further study with great care

IT jobs are in demand, and skills in the field of energy and water will be sought after

As the world of work changes, school leavers are facing a dilemma as to how best to prepare for success in their careers, says Sandra Burmeister, the chief executive of Amrop Landelahni.
They should be considering very carefully what fields of further study they should consider, she says. A premium will continue to be placed on graduates skilled in technical subject, she says. “Automation and the digital revolution signal a move away from jobs that demand routine mental or physical activity to those that depend on human judgment.”
Robotics will take over a lot of mundane work currently being done. This is already the case in several industries, such as car manufacture, where robots are taking over from people in automated assembly lines.
“On another front, the landmark climate accord announced in Paris in December will spur industry to focus on renewable sources of energy” says Burmeister
“There will be a huge demand for specialised skills in the fields of energy and water: “These are issues of concern globally, and no less so in South Africa,” she says.
Eskom continues to be under pressure to meet the demand for power, while water scarcity in large parts of the country has led to an emphasis on safeguarding and efficient management of water resources.”
Energy and technology companies will focus their endeavours on making breakthroughs in areas from solar and wind power and electric cars to hydrology and environmental engineering.
“This will create a demand for highly skilled individuals with the potential for embracing new technologies. “Adding to the demand for skills is the fact that a large proportion of South Africa’s qualified technical and engineering professionals are ageing out of the system.
“A cadre of South Africa’s highly skilled personnel – from electricians to civil engineers – are moving into retirement, bringing South Africa to what has been a ‘skills cliff’.
“These disruptive forces bring huge opportunities for today’s students in the technical and engineering fields. As processes and procedures are re-engineered or overturned, new jobs will be created that do not exist today.
“Information technology skills will remain critical in all these fields of endeavour.” Out of the top 25 highest-paying and highest demand jobs in the US in 2015, 10 of the top 25 were in the computer field. Forbes magazine lists data scientists as the most sought-after resource.
The World Economic Forum pinpoints 10 emerging technologies.
These include fuel-cell vehicles, next generation robotics for a wide variety of repetitive tasks, computer chips modelled on the human brain, and 3D printing of manufacturing components.
The PwC Future of Work (2014) report indicates that 53 percent of respondents believe technology breakthroughs will transform the way people work over the next five to 10 years. “In South Africa, viable study options include software engineering, electrical engineering, engineering for the green economy, project management, financial and risk management.” Says Burmeister.
“In the local context, the challenge is huge. While robotic intervention and other high-technology innovations may enhance our quality of life and create new jobs not in existence today, the impact on the unemployed and the less educated and unskilled could be severe.
“Gearing up for new technologies and keeping the next generation at work is a major challenge.
“Sustainable development demands that, in the long term, South Africa develops its own skills base, starting with improving the quality of education, particularly in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“If we don’t get that right, these jobs may serve to lock unskilled workers out of the market.” For more information, see
Workplace – 20 January 2016