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“Machines are great, but we must be able to build them.”

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“Machines are great, but we must be able to build them.”

At a recent indaba on the future of mining in SA, the head of the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union, Joseph Mathunjwa, emphasized the need for South Africa to better prepare its  youth and workerforce for the 4th Industrial Revolution.

This does not necessarily mean everyone must become a digital expert. What it means is we must generate the necessary skills to manufacture the machines that will take human jobs.

It’s no secret that Artificial Intelligence and mechanization will replace people in many industries. The key to meeting the social and economic challenges this presents is to develop a “build local” mindset and strategy across all industries. As well as focusing on the need to upskill workers to operate these new machines, South Africa must become industrialised to manufacture them.

“There are things you can’t avoid in the world. In South Africa we must be careful not to allow a playing field that isn’t level. Automation must not just come as a vertical workforce revolution. It must be informed by changes to our education and skills development system,” Mathunjwa said.

“Automation will reduce workers. We can’t run away from that. We want the endgame to be skills developments that allows us to manufacture locally, not just to operate machines and programs.”

It’s a simple truth that machines can’t build themselves. We need people to design, engineer and manufacture the machines that are revolutionising industry.

By Allan McDonald

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