As the 15th Skills Development Summit approaches, 2022 is set to highlight the ever-increasing need for investment in skills development in the face of new trends, economic challenges and skills shortages. The summit aims to provide answers and solutions to the many challenges facing South Africa and the world. South Africa faces an alarming shortage of skilled workers in almost every sector. This highlights the importance in the investment of skills development programs to address these shortfalls and add much needed capacity to our economy. There is a need for development within a framework of inclusivity and development that is transformative.

Automation and globalization are reshaping the world economy. Within the next four years, more than 5 million jobs are expected to be lost to robots. But which skills do we need in order to face the unexpected? And how do we equip today’s school-age children for professions that don’t exist yet? Emerging economies face more daunting challenges. High drop-out rates, meager funds, a lack of access and inclusion, and acute teacher shortages continue to plague progress. The skills needed to hold a job in the 21st century are a crucial asset for any individual growing up in these countries. The economies of South Asia and Africa will supply nearly 60% of the world’s new workers by 2030, according to McKinsey Global Institute. But if current education trends continue, the global labour force will contain at least a billion workers who lack the necessary education and skills. 

The Honourable Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, has mentioned the following skills and occupations that should be strongly represented in our skills strategy, as these emerging and future skills are crucial for the sustainability of every industry: big data specialists, analytics, software development, social media, internet of things (IoT), blockchain, automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and cyber security, data analysis and science, cloud computing and machine learning. Strengthening ERRP through skills, embracing technological changes and innovation for employability in sustainable manufacturing sector will be fully supported by the PSET system. The digital economy is key to address economic recovery and reconstruction as digital skills cut across all of our economic activities.The delegates at this summit will include learners and employers. We believe that delegates and learners at this Summit would also find the Minister’s views and plans in this regard insightful as they tackle the difficult issue of skills development in their respective fields. The Honourable President Cyril Ramaphosa announced at the state of the nation address that the Department of Higher Education and Training plans on placing 10 000 unemployed TVET graduates who completed N-studies and NCV programmes, in workplaces from April 2022. 

Partnerships between public and private sectors need to draw up new curricula that match young people with the real needs of businesses. Gender gaps persist globally in women’s access to skills development and participation in the labour market. The main challenges women face include gender biases in occupational choices; barriers to education and training, especially in rural and informal economies; socio-cultural and economic constraints; and low representation of women in STEM subjects. The issues raised in this summit impact all stakeholders from employees to governments across the globe. It is an event of international importance, which is why the Skills Development Summit 2022 is an event not to be missed for every serious stakeholder in the skills development space.