Few SA universities offer digital, AI-related courses

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Only 11 of 26 universities offer digital and artificial intelligence-related courses in the country. This emerged during the biannual National Skills Conference in Boksburg. A shortfall of technical skills among graduates took centre stage.

A 23-year-old mechatronics college graduate, Athi Lupupwana, is riding the digital wave. He programmed a rob-mixer machine on his own in 2018.

Lupupwana says that the robot came standard from Germany. So why would one mix their own juice?

“While the juice is getting mixed, the robot will be dancing just to keep you entertained so you won’t get bored, because the mixture might take a while. It actually does all the local dances like Thuso Phala, some like Vosho then the robot will then bow to say thank you for waiting. Then the robot will collect the jug and pour it into the cup.”

Lupupwana believes that the 4th industrial revolution is not out to can jobs.  “My belief is that, in terms of the 4th industrial revolution, we are actually going to have better jobs.”

Others are buying into this creativity. “There will be no job losses only if we prepare now and it has to be faster.”

“The emergence of 4th industrial revolution is happening and there’s no turning back about it.”

However, others are sceptical. “It’s kind of a machine, right? Which means you just need one person to control it, that’s all so there’s no job opportunity doing this.”

Executive Officer: National Skills Authority, Dr. Thabo Mashongoane, says that they need to get more stakeholders to open a more opportunities for the students.

“If we can find more of our stakeholders, particularly employers and trade unions agreeing and opening up more work place opportunities for these students, we will then be very grateful.”

A basic and technical skills development talking point is taking centre stage at the conference. According to Minister of Higher Education and Training, Naledi Pandor, we have to look at addressing our production level of high skills.

However, the minister says that more universities and TVET colleges must offer courses in digital and artificial intelligence.

“We really have to look at addressing our production of high level skills, critical necessary skills that are gaps and ensure that there is no area of economic or other action in which we lack skills…If it is our intention to take full advantage of this digital opportunity, all 26 of our universities and all 50 of our TVET colleges should be offering such courses, 11 is just not good enough for where we want to be.”

For Lupuwana, the skill is visible enough and his hope is to transfer it to other young people so that they are able to take part in this robust cutting-edge revolution.