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Human Resources

Kathryn Cave (Africa) - South African Jobs: Part 1, The Skilled

Over the next few months IDG Connect is looking to run a thorough investigation into the shortage of IT skills in South Africa. To kick start this we have begun speaking to a few different people about their views on the problem, and will be putting up our commentary on this site. Over the next two weeks we will be discussing the difference between skilled and unskilled.

In some respects South Africa is no different from anywhere else in the world. Like most places, there is clearly a chasm between the skilled and the unskilled; the experienced and inexperienced. The nature of technology means it probably always will be difficult for candidates to keep up with the all new skills required, especially whilst the old skills are still needed. The fact is old technology is not falling off as fast as the new technology is arriving. This means the immense pace of change itself creates a gap.

To add to this, the demand for jobs is ever fluctuating and cyclical.  Alan Russsell, MD of Anatal South Africa describes the rapid market changes that he has seen over the last few years. During the recession, people were only looking for workers who could generate income, before that the most sought after candidates were highly skilled technical workers.  Now the cycle begin to change again. Interestingly, a study we published back in August showed that that almost 80% of Africans surveyed believed the market needed more senior technical personnel.

In South Africa, however, many issues thrown up are particularly pertinent to the region. There has been a lot written about the influx of international companies, and those from India and China especially, often import their own skills. Russell describes how if a job advert is posted online the majority of responses will come from foreign nationals. This reminds me of a situation a few years ago, where a former colleague of mine was immigrating to South Africa (from the UK) to work for a big IT company. It struck me at the time that part of her visa request was to show a copy of the original job advert. This was to prove she wasn’t stealing a local person’s job via nefarious connections.

Naturally the necessity to fill PDI positions is also having its own impact on the job market.  Alicia Mohamet, Technology manager at Michael Page estimates that she has seen as many as 15 – 20% of  high caliber, senior white candidates move abroad due to a failure to secure positions at the appropriate level. She talks about a situation where many locals end up moving to places like Australia; whilst the corresponding immigrant population is itinerant and ultimately doesn’t want to stay for the long term. This appears to be supported by a statistic from our August skills survey, where 69% of the Africans we interviewed believed the best talent moves abroad.

In summary, there appears to be a seesaw effect at work in the market: senior staff with the wrong types of skills, juxtaposed against junior staff who struggle to get the right skills.  We will be covering this in more detail next Monday.

Please drop me a note if you would like to chat about your views on the skills shortage. I am particularly interested in learning about young people’s views on the industry: Kathryn_cave@idg.com

Our skills season continues with:
Monday 30th
– South African Jobs: Part 2, The Unskilled
Monday 6th Feb – David Blakey from Snapt Logic on the employment risk of start ups
Monday 13th February – Adrian Schofield author of 2011 JCSE-IT Web Skills Survey (published 8th Feb) with his commentary on the findings

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