SA has young people to fill our ICT skills shortage 

We simply need to re-think recruitment and training

Young programmer-working-software-development-coding

South African corporates, already struggling to fill ICT roles, are having an even tougher time finding talent as they accelerate the adoption of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and big data.

According to leading online job board Career Junction, the most in-demand positions of the future include cloud engineers, data scientists and DevOps engineers. Cyber security specialists to manage the corresponding risks associated with the fast-paced uptake of these advanced technologies are also in short supply. Mindworx recruitment has seen similar demand growth, and in addition significant requirements for software developers and test analysts. 

While we’re seeing efforts to improve outcomes in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) education, all stakeholders, including government, corporates and training institutions, need to do more to bridge these skills gaps, which are hampering economic growth.

In his State of the Nation address in February, President Cyril Ramaphosa committed R800 million from the National Skills Fund (NSF) towards digital and technology skills development through a model that links payment for training to employment outcomes. The president says he hopes this will help “strengthen the link between the skills that we develop and the skills the workplace needs”.

We are particularly encouraged by MICT SETA, the media and ICT sector education training authority’s advancements in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) space. In 2021, MICT SETA decided to establish a 4IR advisory committee, launched additional 4IR qualifications developed with higher learning institutions and other stakeholders, and put in place research chairs at major universities. 

The SETA has also identified emerging technologies expected to drive the ICT sector going forward. Training facilities will need to broaden their course offerings and collaborate with corporates and government agencies to equip learners with the necessary skills to operate in the ever-changing digital landscape. In addition to the necessary technical skills, employers have identified curiosity, grit, complex problem-solving, collaboration, empathy and networking as key skills young workers need to add value to their roles, so these need to be built into curricula too.     

Mindworx has been building and placing skilled resources into digital jobs for more than a decade and one conclusive fact is that once learners have a year of corporate experience, they stay employed thereafter. More than 3,000 Mindworx Academy graduates have been employed by South African businesses over that timeframe, earning R500 million a year in salaries – a significant contribution to the economy. We are also seeing some candidates getting snapped up by international companies that see the benefit of South African skills while leveraging the weak rand against their own currencies. Our plan is to increase this number substantially and deliver more than 1,000 learners to corporates in the year ahead – all equipped with in-demand digital skills. 

We’re hoping that corporations will see the need to provide additional work opportunities for the growing number of unemployed learners and also increase their investments in reskilling existing staff who have an aptitude for these emerging technologies to fill their ICT roles. The rise in self-paced e-learning platforms has helped in reducing the costs of digital training programmes and gives learners more flexibility to become certified while still managing day-to-day job pressures.

South Africa’s youth unemployment rate decreased to 45.5% in the third quarter of 2022, according to the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey. But that’s still one of the highest among G20 countries. In order to achieve the scale required to make a dent in those numbers and bridge the skills gap in the ICT sector, our advice to recruiters is to widen their reach beyond major cities to include rural and remote areas and also look at minimising work experience requirements for entry-level job seekers.

This article was published in News24

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