Sasol Techno X: Youth urged to prepare themselves for the green STEAMI economy of the future

Science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics and innovation (STEAMI) holds the key to a prosperous future for South Africa’s youth. Young South Africans should seize the opportunities this field offers as they prepare themselves for the careers of the future and strive to make a difference in the world.

That’s according to speakers at Sasol Techno X, one of South Africa’s biggest career guidance exhibitions. Hosted on virtual platforms in September with the theme “Create. Explore. Innovate.”, Sasol Techno X 2022 focused on the endless possibilities presented by technology in changing the world of work, careers of the future, renewable energy and life in general. 

Noxolo Kahlana, Head of Sasol Foundation, said: “Speakers throughout the day highlighted how STEAMI takes STEM to the next level. The careers of the future are not just about the hard skills of STEM, but also about unleashing the creativity, curiosity and humanity of the worlds of innovation and the arts. 

“STEAMI removes limitations to learning and replaces these with wonder and innovation. And this is what Sasol Techno X is about: highlighting how STEAMI education opens unprecedented possibilities for learners and out-of-school-youth. Our ambition as Sasol is to grow shared value for all our stakeholders, while accelerating our transition to a low carbon economy.

Don’t let girls get left behind 

Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, highlighted the importance of STEAMI in creating opportunities for women and the youth. She cited statistics indicating that by 2025, as many as 80% of all future jobs will require a STEM education to show why it’s critically important to ramp up investment in STEAMI education in South Africa. 

“STEM fields desperately need more girls and women, and the statistics prove it,” she said. “Women make up half of all tech users and make 85% of shopping decisions. Yet, globally, only 14% of the STEM workforce consists of females and only 7% in South Africa. According to the research conducted by Accenture and Girls Who Code, the number of women in the STEM field has decreased since the 1990s.”

With 37% of people between the ages of 15 to 24 who are Not in Employment, Education and Training (NEET), South Africa urgently needs to skill up young people and get them engaged in the job market, Motshekga added. “Our future as a people hinges on accelerated performance by our learners in STEM, and this career exhibition is critical in igniting interest.

“As we do so, we do not neglect the foundation of learning: literacy and numeracy. However, I implore all young people to grab opportunities in these STEAMI – related fields and build the South Africa of our dreams. We again thank Sasol for investing in the future of our country, the most precious assets of them all: young minds.” 

What do the careers of the future look like? 

At a career of the future panel discussion, STEAMI thought leaders shared their experiences and offered practical advice to youth starting their careers. Nomso Kana, founder and MD at Sun and Shield Technologies, advised young people to invest in developing a core career and related skills in the world of STEM, while leaving themselves open to branching into new skills and careers. 

An important theme of the panel was the imperative of educating learners about green economy opportunities and the importance of understanding the renewable energy space. It’s essential for learners to understand that the green economy of the future will be heavily reliant on a workforce with strong STEAMI expertise. 

David Kawesha Head of Just Transition at Sasol, agreed, noting that he is a chemical engineering by training who specialised in fossil fuels. He has since started applying his learning to Sasol’s just transition. As old industries evolve, it is key to think about what the careers of the future will look and how people can move into new roles, he added. 

Dr Riana Steyn. Senior Lecturer: Department of Informatics, University of Pretoria, concurred. “We have to think of the industries that are low tech and how to leverage technology to save them,” she said. Jeremy Beukes. Programme Manager at the South African Graduate Employers Association, meanwhile, agreed with the other panellists that careers of the future are about lifelong learning.  

Collaboration, communication, leadership, and curiosity are among the qualities employers are looking for, said Beukes. And in every industry from retail and finance to mining and energy, in-demand skills include machine learning, artificial intelligence and data analytics.