Future skills roadmap developed for food and beverage sector

Scientist researcher woman checking tomato injected with pesticides for gmo test, in background her coleglegue typing chemical test Biochemist working in biotechnology organic laboratory

Scientist researcher woman checking tomato injected with pesticides for gmo test, in background her coleglegue typing chemical test Biochemist working in biotechnology organic laboratory

Published Jul 25, 2023


The World Economic Forum estimates that 65% of children entering Grade 1 will work in a job that doesn’t exist today. So while South Africa is already grappling with 32% unemployment, it also needs to contend with the possibility of up to 70% of current jobs being lost to technological advances.

As part of a structured plan to develop future skills for economic growth, the first Atlas of Emerging Jobs was launched last week by the FoodBev Manufacturing SETA and the BRICS Business Council Skills Development Working Group (SDWG).

Sherrie Donaldson, project director for the Atlas project and BRICS Business Council SDWG member, explained that the Atlas of Emerging Jobs is a map which details possible future, redundant and transforming jobs.

“The SDWG is partnering with various sector bodies to create a pipeline of skills for future and emerging jobs that will ensure that South African businesses can be competitive against our BRICS counterparts.”

This first Atlas of Emerging Jobs was developed with the FoodBev Manufacturing SETA and is focused specifically on the food and beverage manufacturing sector. It highlights 21 possible new job occupations, including circular economy designer, food waste recycling specialist and food manufacturing cyber security specialist. Seven job occupations have been identified as changing – for instance, a farm worker will transform to a farm technician; food scientists and nutritionists’ job occupations will merge into a bio-nutritionist function; and a logistics planner will become a personalised logistician.

There are 10 occupations at risk in the food and beverage sector due to automation and robotics.

The sector’s vision is to upskill and re-skill workers so that workforce reduction is minimised. With clear and credible direction from the Atlas, the sector is now able to develop new curricula for emerging jobs and adapt current programmes for needed future skills. Career guidance tools can be developed to attract people to emerging jobs.

“The methodology can be replicated by other sectors, provinces and even cities. For example, a special economic zone (SEZ) could commission an Atlas for the zone to inform investment and improve employment opportunities,” said Donaldson.

Nokuthula Selamolela, CEO at FoodBev Manufacturing SETA, added: “We have focused on understanding the future of our sector, which challenges must be addressed, and the necessary steps that need to be taken to build this future. With this process complete, we are now prioritising skills development to avoid future skills gaps.

“An advanced workforce will also make South Africa an attractive investment destination and allow us to stop importing skills. It is critical that South Africa implements these skills at BRICS standards.”

Future skills training

Donaldson believes that BRICS relationships can be leveraged to develop curricula and standards for training in future skills. “One of the ways to do this is by participating in the annual BRICS Future Skills Challenge. This international challenge is being hosted in South Africa this year and we are going to enter 120 competitors.”

SA’s team of competitors are young professionals and students aged between 16 and 35 who are skilled in robotic process automation, mobile app development, data science and digital factory skills, among others.

Online training camps are held for SA teams ahead of the competition. Each skills area has the support of at least one dedicated expert with deep working knowledge in their specific field of expertise. Those selected to participate from BRICS countries solve real-world problems and devise solutions using their specific skills.

“It is time for companies and government agencies in all sectors to take proactive steps in their respective industries. Each sector needs to look critically at the skills currently available and those that are needed in the future.

“Contact BRICS Future Skills to see how we can help to develop the roadmap for your sector, and to learn more about sponsorship of the BRICS Skills Challenge 2023 which is being hosted in South Africa,” concluded Donaldson.