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Who are the modern job creators?

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The days of the mega-employer seem to be numbered. For South Africa this poses a real challenge, especially in light of the future world of work requiring individuals with entrepreneurial flair coupled with an inherent understanding of the virtual world we are moving into.

This is according to Sean Jones, a director of black empowered artisan training company, Artisan Training Institute (ATI).

Jones said the South African education system is not keeping up to speed with the demands of the modern world – and we will continue to fall behind.

In a recent article published by Gerald F. Davis from the University of Michigan (2015) he raised the question of where jobs come from today?

There is no doubt that the nature of work/employment has changed significantly over the past few decades leaving many economies in states of limbo as they try to unravel emerging constructs, questioning how their “cheese has been moved”.

According to Davis, joblessness has become structural rather than cyclical, with governments not having figured out what to do about this dilemma.

According to Jones, this is not the case at all, citing the work of Lerman (2013) where he states governments emphasising university degrees over apprenticeships grapple with youth unemployment as many graduates struggle to find employment post university, or do not practice what they studied for. The benefits in combatting youth unemployment by encouraging vocational learning include: learners being paid while they study, learners contributing to the work pool of companies during their studies, economic productivity gains when these learners are fully trained, and the burden of this learning being lifted from the state, borne by the private sector.

“So, whilst many jobs are being created in new sectors including big data, Internet (virtual) companies, and other nimble emerging environments, the days of the mega employer seem to be numbered,” said Jones.

From a new employment angle big data, for instance, has often been viewed as “the new oil” – and has been catapulted into the limelight as the economic counter balancer to America’s sinking manufacturing sector.

It seems that what oil did at the beginning of the last century, big data is going to drive economies in the century ahead.

As with oil, people and companies know data is out there in huge quantities. Companies also realize that it is not enough to simply know where it is — it has to be data mined, extracted, refined, and delivered in a usable format in order to carry any real value.

Additionally, just like the energy economy of earlier years, the data economy also needs new workers. An estimated 4.4 million are currently employed – in the United States – according to a Gartner Research analysis.
But where is the solution, in South Africa, for future job creation, in light of our mining sector being in decline, manufacturing and engineering sharing the same fate -while the agricultural sector is shrouded in future uncertainty?

While countries like the USA, France, Germany and Australia seem to be ramping up vocational training to deal with their youth employment – and with South Africa trying to follow suite – this seems to be only part of the solution.

Meanwhile in the UK, labour market expert Professor Alison Wolf said cuts to FE colleges and the growth of universities could see the UK lose valuable source of technicians and mechanics.

She states that Britain’s supply of skilled workers may “vanish into history” if looming budget cuts in further education and the unchecked expansion of universities are allowed to continue.

Professor Alison Wolf is a respected labour market expert and the author of the Wolf review of vocational education.
“I think we should be very alarmed about this – it’s a serious potential crisis,” said Wolf, who publishes a report backed by the Gatsby Foundation arguing that “unstable, inefficient, untenable and unjust” funding is destroying education provision for school-leavers outside of universities.
Commenting further, Jones turned his attention to SA, saying that the tourism sector may provide the only viable opportunity for large scale job creation in the years to come. That is if South Africa can continue to promote a positive image abroad. “The medium term challenges we have to resolve include addressing corruption at all levels of our society, with government and business developing closer working tiers to tackle challenges together,” he said.