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Unlocking employment opportunities for SA’s youth in the age of AI

by Tia

As AI takes over routine tasks in the workplace, the future job market demands innovation, adaptability and continuous learning – providing possibilities for the next generation to redefine work and thrive in a rapidly evolving landscape, writes Premlin Pillay, CEO of Tesserai and Group Executive of Mettus, a group of technology, data and analytics companies, with Tesserai leading the group’s data, analytics and artificial intelligence initiatives. 

With the artificial intelligence (AI) market expected to see an annual growth rate of as much as 37.3% by 20301, its rise is transforming our world in unprecedented ways, revolutionising all aspects of life, and the workplace is no exception. 

So much so that studies suggest that 64% of businesses consider AI a valuable tool for increasing overall productivity1. This demonstrates that despite concerns about its impact on potential job displacement, it is here to stay. 

With 77% of people expressing their concerns about AI impacting the job market, the World Economic Forum is more optimistic, stating that AI may create as many as 97 million new jobs1

To remain relevant amidst this rapid technological shift, South Africans, particularly the youth about to enter the job market, should seek to adapt to the changing landscape, upskill themselves and adopt new skills to bolster their digital literacy, such as data analysis and machine learning. 

AI skills are increasingly in demand. Young people proficient in AI technologies will have a competitive edge in the job market, making them more attractive to employers. Moreover, an understanding of AI can empower young people to innovate and create new business opportunities which can lead to the development of AI-driven startups and solutions, and contribute to economic growth.

Despite common perceptions, the advent of AI is not limited to the tech industry and is applicable across multiple industries, including healthcare, finance, education and agriculture, amongst others. Embracing AI opens up diverse career paths across various sectors.

The pace of technological change means that continuous learning and adaptability are crucial. Embracing AI fosters a mindset of lifelong learning, which is essential for career longevity and success. 

As a career opportunity promising a wealth of possibilities for those with the right skills, mindset and expertise, there are diverse pathways South African youth can explore to maximise their potential for success. 

One prominent area of career growth lies in data science. With the proliferation of data across industries, there is an increasing need for skilled data scientists who can extract meaningful insights from vast datasets. These professionals play a crucial role in informing decision-making processes and driving business strategies through data-driven analysis.

Similarly, machine learning engineering is another thriving field within AI. Machine learning engineers are responsible for designing and deploying AI models that can make predictions or decisions based on data. Their expertise is essential in developing algorithms, training models, and optimising performance to achieve desired outcomes.

In addition, specialised AI fields like natural language processing (NLP) and computer vision offer diverse career opportunities. 

As AI continues to penetrate every aspect of the workplace, it brings with it an increasing need for educators and trainers to impart AI skills and knowledge to the next generation of professionals, ensuring a skilled workforce ready to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the AI-driven future.

To this end, Tesserai has hosted an internship programme over the last three years to address the rapid growth of the AI industry, which often outpaces individual skills development. The programme takes cohorts of graduates from a range of disciplines and puts them through an intensive 12-month programme coupled with actual work experience. 

Successful graduates from the programme are then placed across the Mettus group. The initiative aims to build capability in the data, analytics and AI domains, while ensuring a sustained advantage in the AI landscape through the cultivation of skilled professionals.

As South Africa’s youth stand on the precipice of the AI revolution, they hold the power to shape their destinies and redefine the future of work. By embracing innovation, fostering adaptability, and committing to continuous learning, they can unlock the boundless opportunities that AI presents and forge a future of prosperity and success. 

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