South Africa

Bridging the gap: Addressing South Africa’s shortage of IT professional skills

Jacob Mogale
Executive: Sales - Training Division
Torque IT
4 mins

Year in and year out the critical skills shortage lists in South Africa show similar trends, with IT roles consistently topping skills most in need—and the most challenging to fill. The top four roles in Business Tech’s list are software developers, developer programmers, data scientists, and ICT systems analysts, but business leaders know this is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

Given how critical digital transformation is in today’s business and operational landscape, this lack of skills is having a far-reaching consequences, both on what companies can achieve today and in terms of what the future holds.

 

There are a number of factors contributing to these shortages. Some are specific to South Africa, such as the high cost of tertiary education prohibiting a large proportion of the population’s ability to receive a degree. However, there are global challenges as well. IT skills shortages are being felt across the globe. This means local organisations are competing with international enterprises that are also trying to attract top talent from south Africa. It’s also a strong indication that the pace of technology adoption has outstripped any market’s ability to keep up with skills requirements. If this is not urgently addressed, the problem will only deepen, as we all know that digital transformation is only accelerating—it is certainly not slowing down.

 

The disparity between the skills required by employers and the skills possessed by the workforce has created a gap that must be addressed with urgency and strategic insight.

 

  1. Identifying and addressing the skills gap

 

Before any solutions can be implemented, it is crucial to identify the specific skills that are in short supply. Over and above the skills we’ve already listed, South Africa also has a notable shortage of IT professionals with expertise in cybersecurity, data analytics, and artificial intelligence. While there are many similarities in the general gaps that are widening, each organisation’s skills gaps will also be unique.

 

Before investing in education and IT training programs, businesses should identify the exact skills that are lacking, as well as where there will be future gaps. Currently, most organisations are playing catch up, but with the right strategic plan in place, it is possible to start training today for the skills that will be required in a few weeks, months or even years. Technology vendors work with certified partners to ensure that the correct skills can be taught for all the innovations currently entering the market. With the right focus, plan and investments, there is no reason why these key gaps cannot be filled.

 

  1. Leveraging technology to fill the gap

 

Technology itself can be a powerful tool in addressing the skills shortage. Online learning platforms and virtual classrooms can provide access to education and training for individuals in remote or underserved areas, and the ability to train independently through online platforms give busy professionals more control over how they learn and when they learn. There are many ways to deliver training solutions that suit a business’s specific needs.

 

  1. Getting creative

 

We all know that the foundation of any thriving industry is a well-educated and skilled workforce. At Adcorp Group, we believe that businesses, educational institutions, and the government must join forces to invest in robust education and training programs. We cannot only rely on traditional university and vocational training courses. Specialised short-term workshops and online courses that are designed to quickly upskill individuals play a critical role, as well as internships to provide practical experience. Every business can support these mechanisms by accessing them through accredited training providers. In South Africa, there are a number of tax incentives that training providers can help employers to leverage.

 

  1. Building a culture of development

 

Many businesses believe the answer lies in recruitment and this is certainly an important way to bring the correct skills into the organisation. However, recruitment solves a company’s current skills gap—not the underlying cause of why so many businesses are competing for so few skills. Developing a culture of learning and development will encourage employees to identify where their own gaps lie and request training. Building skills internally is far more cost effective than hiring long-term resources who will also need additional development as technologies evolve. Promoting career development is also an excellent way to become an employer of choice, and there are many ways to leverage contingent workforces to address skills gaps while employees are upskilling.

 

  1. Focusing on talent retention

 

A strong culture of development does not only encourage employees to want to upskill and attract talent, but it also retains talent. Employees who know that they have career advancement paths within the organisation, that the business is willing to invest in them, and that through the company they can future proof their own skills are more likely to stay. Many businesses fear they will invest in training only to lose an employee to a competitor. This does occasionally happen, but we see there is a far greater trend towards staying with employers who deliver career longevity from a skills perspective. Additional ways to retain skilled IT professionals include creating a conducive work environment, offering competitive salaries, and ensuring that no single employee’s workload is unmanageable because of a lack of internal skills.

 

How Torque IT can help

The skills shortage of IT professionals in South Africa is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach. Torque IT is the leading South African IT school offering comprehensive courses and certifications for a career in the IT industry. Businesses can focus on the future by supporting learnerships or invest in the internal skills they need through technology and software-specific certification courses. Chat to our team today to map out your specific needs.

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Executive: Sales - Training Division
Torque IT
Jacob has in excess of 10 years executive experience, a proven track record of turning around difficult business situations and has led sales teams across Africa. Prior roles include being the Managing Executive for BCX in Nigeria and the Head of Sales for the Mobile division of Samsung Electronics in South Africa.

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