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Survey of SA's ICT skills finds more of the same

Survey of SA's ICT skills finds more of the same

The 2016 edition of the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) Skills Survey has presented a grim picture of a lack of skills to meet the country's ICT sector demands.

The survey has found that South Africa is falling behind its peers in Africa (notably Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria) who continue to emphasise the contribution that technology makes towards economic growth and social development.

Key findings of the 2016 survey include that Information Security is South Africa's top employer priority, followed by Network infrastructure and Saas/Cloud computing.

Additionally, Big Data design/analytics has the highest demand for ICT skills, ahead of implementation and support and Infrastructure design/management. The least skills number of skills needed are for project management.

71% of respondents indicate that the lack of skills is having a major impact on their business, including 29% who say this is a threat to their viability.

Adrian Schofield, JCSE Applied Research Unit Manager Manager, says while there are hopeful signs with some initiatives to address the skills dearth in South Africa - like IBM's plan to open a Research Laboratory in Johannesburg and SAP Code Week events - much more needs to be done.

"At the end of the day what we are saying in the survey is that some things don't change. There are many skills initiatives in South Africa. The problem is that they are often operating in silos. They are not coordinated, they spring up like a mushroom in the dark, and then vanish just as quickly. The broadband network is improving and that means peoples' opportunity to learn through technology is improving. We suffer perennially from poor and delayed policies and the industry is fragmented in terms of its representation, so we don't have a lobby body getting together and putting pressure where it counts. We don't have a group that can approach government to improve policy implementation, in spite of some very good bodies they are not coordinated well enough."

Schofield pointed out that multitasking is still a big part of the worklife of practitioners in South Africa with the average ICT practitioner not identifying their role as specialist in nature. ICT practitioners are typically responsible for almost five different task areas within the work environment.

"The challenge has been around for quite a few years now where South Africa's practitioners are expected to do anything. They are willing to try and some of them succeed and they become very expensive, and the difficulty is when they leave, they are hard to replace. In other parts of the world people are far more specialised. We could employ probably three times as many people if we didn't have these people hogging the jobs."

Another challenge is that available data on South Africa's skills needs is also disjointed and often out of date, according to Schofield.

The 2016 JCSE Skills Survey findings, he adds, reflects South Africa's skills capacity through a questionnaire that is published as an online survey completed by ICT employers from across the country. "The MICT Seta asks for my report as input into their sector skills plan. I think the main gap that we are filling is painting the big picture. Every one of the other initiatives takes their own slice, so the MICT Seta only looks at one sector, the banks Seta only looks at one sector and the department of Higher Education takes a sort of aggregate, but doesn't pull it together properly, the Department of Home Affairs is only interested in what it needs to know to issue a work visa. Everyone of them looks at it in their own personal way and what we try to do is to pull that together to give a picture across the country."

The 2016 JCSE ICT Skills Survey is available for download on the organisation's website.

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