The 2020 South African Presidential Commission on the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) presented five development pillars for the South African 4IR strategy, with the People and Skills pillar emphasising the role of the education sector in South Africa’s successful global participation in the 4IR. The report identifies a lack of soft skills such as creativity and problem solving in new graduates, adversely affecting their work-preparedness and employability. The World Economic Forum’s 15 top skills for 2025 also placed soft skills as the top six future workplace skills. Tertiary educators have the opportunity and responsibility to prepare graduates for this shift to the 4IR-workplace by developing soft skills relevant to their discipline.
Soft skills literature is obscured by differences in terminology and definitions across disciplines and locations. The lack of consistency hampers educators in identifying soft skills relevant to their field and the appropriate pedagogy to teach them. This paper employs an integrative literature review to synthesise soft skill categories relevant to the current and 4IR-adapted interior design workplace while also identifying sources that include pedagogy to facilitate teaching these skills. Findings include two approaches to soft skills specific to interior design and interior architecture, namely an individual skills approach and a skills category approach.
The study’s contribution includes an increased awareness of soft skills in the context of 4IR and interior design, but also design disciplines in general. The identified pedagogy-related sources can support educators in preparing South African interior design graduates for the current and 4IR-adapted workplace. This study proposes a conceptual 4IR-soft skills model that expands on the existing CORE model by Parlamis and Monnot. The strategy encompasses four integral relationships needed for 4IR soft skills development, specifically the individual-to-Self, individual-to-Organisation, individual-to-Person, and individual-to-Technology relationships, called the SPOT model. The study concludes with an application strategy for the model to assist educators in determining context-specific and discipline-specific soft skills that can be developed in the classroom.