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Human Resources

Kathryn Cave (Africa) - South African Jobs: Part 2, The Unskilled

The issues and tensions associated with training the next generation of IT workers is well-documented. Yet each region throws up its own unique difficulties. The research that we published, back in August showed that 71% of Africans - the highest in the world – believed a key reason for employment problems in their area was that entry level workers have a different work ethic to older employees. This is an interesting perception, but you can’t help wondering how much it actually reflects what is going on.  Is this really a reflection on work ethic, or a symptom of the difficult transition for young people between skilled and unskilled?

Alicia Mohamet, Technology Manager at Michael Page recruitment service describes a situation where junior resources are flooding the market to such a great extent that it is very difficult to place them. “Many grads are working in call centers because they lack the right certification or experience.”  Alan Russell, MD of Anatal recruitment talks about a market where technology is moving so quickly that the information students have learnt in the first year can be obsolete by the end of the third.

It is clear that there is an urgent need for training which really prepares young people for the workplace. IBM’s Sean McLean said in an interview last year with IT Web’s Brainstorm Magazine “The skills problem starts with a schooling system that isn’t producing nearly enough matriculants with the mathematics and science marks they need to study computer science or electronic engineering at university”. Whilst Cindy Von Pannier sales and marketing director for Adapt IT Group added “Universities are not agile enough… they should be partnering with businesses to deliver what real-world organizations need.”

Douglas Cohen detailed his own practical solutions to counteract the IT skills shortage on this blog a few weeks ago. This included taking a more long term development view of training. Ultimately this has to begin by providing young children with basic skills, then go on by offering young adults more opportunities through internships and good, entry level jobs.  Large organizations like Microsoft and Oracle are doing this, but as a practice it needs to become more widespread.

One interesting element of the 2011 JCSE-IT Web Skills Survey (published 8th February 2011) is the trend which shows that employers are less enthusiastic about certifications than practitioners. This suggests that that many commercial training providers may “oversell” their courses to fill seats and highlights another of the inevitable pitfalls of many training programs. This year’s report concluded with the statement that “although the on-going economic woes of the 21st century are troubling our local environment, the demand for ICT skills remain high enough to warrant serious attention to education, training and retention policies – and will do so for the foreseeable future.”

What do you think is the best route for gaining skills?  Is the training gap one of inevitable pitfalls of an industry as young and ever changing as technology?  The pace of transformation is after all astonishing. Even ten year olds have seen tablet technology develop in their lifetimes!

By Kathryn Cave, e-Editor, IDG Connect.

Our skills season continues with:

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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