The Time is Now to Future-Proof Learning

CEO of Belgium Campus, Enrico Jacobs, explains the importance of preparing students and the workforce for Industry 4.0

The world labour market is at the dawn of a significant transformation as it prepares to maintain pace with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Industry 4.0 is here and it is calling for future-oriented skills and educational reform.



Nowhere is this felt more than in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 60 percent of the population is under the age of 25, making it the world’s youngest region. And, by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum, the region will be home to more than one-quarter of the world’s under-25 population. So what does a globally-connected population mean for the region? How do educators unlock this latent talent and prepare millions of bright young minds for their future work? I have always emphasized the dexterity of technology and its role as an enabler, and now, I add to its capacity as an equaliser, providing immense opportunity. From access to education and jobs, Industry 4.0 will welcome a new era brimming with opportunities for economic prosperity, societal progress and individual growth.


Building a Pipeline of Future Skills

I recently read an informative study undertaken by the World Economic Forum (WEF), The Future of Jobs 2018, detailing how education and work in Sub-Saharan Africa will determine the livelihoods of nearly a billion people in the region and drive growth and development for generations to come. As one of the youngest populations in the world, the report stressed how it is imperative that adequate investments are made in education and learning that will hold value in the labour market; preparing citizens for the world of tomorrow.

According to this WEF report, in South Africa alone, 39 percent of core skills required across all occupations will be different by 2020 as compared to what was needed to perform those roles in 2015. As an educator, these are some alarming statistics, though, ones we are ready to address as we constantly work with top universities around the world to design future-ready curricula for our students

It is common knowledge that South Africa has a huge and growing problem with its critical skills shortages in most sectors of the economy. As a nation, we do not have a workforce with the requisite skills to make a difference in our local economy, which needs to be addressed if we are to have any chance of competing in the global marketplace. The country has, for a number of years, been suffering from a major skills shortage, particularly in technical fields such as ICT and engineering. We need to foster innovation and home-grown solutions, taking a global approach to local problems. All too often, I see local organisations looking abroad for candidates with the required skill set, when all we need do is support local innovation and education which in turn fosters a broader economic impact. 

The Future is Collaborative

Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, recently highlighted the great promise that awaits us. The world has the potential to connect billions more people to digital networks, he explained, dramatically improving the efficiency of organizations and even managing assets in ways that can help regenerate the natural environment, potentially undoing the damage of previous industrial revolutions. The outlook is far more positive than it is negative, and even with concerns of redundancy of jobs, the opportunities far outweigh these. Technology, robotics and artificial intelligence are not about replacing jobs. Scientists think tanks and economic forums the world over have argued that Industry 4.0 is in fact, about creating a new world of collaboration between humans and machines, and jobs will need to evolve. In news media, too often we hear reports about low-skilled jobs being replaced by technology. When in fact, historically, technology creates more jobs than it does away with. I am of the belief that what will emerge in coming years will be an advent of more collaborative jobs between humans and robots. As human beings, technology will never supplant skills such as supervision, creativity and emotional intelligence. In truth, while artificial intelligence begins to impact the workforce and automation replaces some existing skills, industry giants are seeing an increased need for emotional intelligence, creativity, and critical thinking, for example. At Belgium Campus, we work hard to ensure students are encouraged to challenge, think and explore through knowledge-led and practical methodologies. We focus intrinsically on co-creation at our Campus and believe that for the next five to ten years, all students and current employees need to become fluent in technology through educational reform and upskilling. It is imperative that businesses take an active role in supporting their existing workforces through reskilling and upskilling, Workforce transformations are no longer an aspect of the distant future. As shown in the five-year outlook of the WEF report, by 2022, no less than 54 percent of all employees will require significant re-skilling and upskilling.  

Creating Imagineers

At Belgium Campus, we have long abandoned archaic teaching methods that don’t deliver results. We have reimagined a student-centric approach where we reverse engineer our operations to address the learner’s specific talents, needs and capabilities. Our curricula ensures our students have the right workforce composition and skill sets needed for the future.

“We place the philosophy of critical thinking as a key objective in all our curricula and believe that it is imperative that the future generation need a firm grasp in this way of thinking, especially in the way they look at problems and solve them. Critical thinking is fundament al”

To this end, we exceed expectations by deploying a completely unique instruction strategy. Firstly, to equip all our students to become true visionaries in their discipline, because IT people see solutions, connecting the dots and making patterns, where others don’t. Secondly, to drive the kind of innovation that cuts through all industries and make a meaningful contribution to society. The future-proofed learner is one who is a problem solver, who is adaptive and creative, and one who possesses great empathy for community. Our praxis is holistic – we see our students as individuals whom we engage with daily to ensure optimal performance and well-being; enriching their lives on a professional and personal level through support, counselling and mentorship. We have created a ground-breaking, truly participative education model, where the theoretical knowledge that our students gain is grounded and rooted in real-world experience. By partnering with International universities and local and global businesses, our aim is to transform that knowledge base into practical skills and know-how, so that our students walk straight from the grounds of our campus into the doors of the working world. Through collaborative projects with students from International universities, through engagement and internships with industry to understand and meet their needs, and by driving innovation to uplift and empower consumers and their communities; through technology, we offer the skill set to take students places.


Fostering Adaptation and Innovation

Technology is the driving force of the current workforce transformation and survival in Industry 4.0 will require adaptation, integration, collaboration and innovation. Education has always been and will continue to be a fundamental tool in managing the challenges ahead. This is why my staff and I are so determined to keep our curricula and teaching methods ahead of the curve so that the education they receive will help young people navigate this wave of change and give them the skills they need for the jobs of the 21st century. As a pioneering IT institution in South Africa, Belgium Campus strives daily to set our graduates apart from other entrants into the workforce; arming them with exceptional education so that they can make a difference in a skills-scarce South Africa. It is not just about being different – it is about making a difference.