The shortage of ICT skills will cost the economy, says Andile Tlhoaéle, a member of the ICT charter steering committee.
SA's shortage of skills in ICT could cost the country dearly in productivity and additional expenses, say market commentators.
Recruitment companies in the sector say the right ICT skills are hard to find, partially because clients are picky, and also because people do not want to job hunt during a recession.
In addition, because some specialised skills are in such high demand, the price for these talents is on the rise.
Janette Cumming, director of Paracon SA, says there is no single skills shortage, but the industry is short of the right skills to do the job, especially black skills. “We've got skills, but they don't always match the requirements at the time.”
Paracon serves the ICT industry from technician level upwards. Clients are very specific, says Cumming. Sometimes a client may want a person with a degree, or an empowerment candidate. Candidates could also be either over- or under-qualified.
In some cases, clients are not being flexible enough with what they need, and are not prepared to take someone else and teach them the skills they need.
In addition, Cumming says not all graduates are prepared for the working environment, and don't always fit in. This is a gap that needs addressing, she notes.
Needs within the industry change on a weekly basis, depending on the project that is under way, Cumming adds. “It's a rolling requirement.”
Skills that come up on a regular basis include Java, SAP, Oracle and C#.net. One ongoing skill need is Cobalt/cics/db2. This is an “ongoing legacy requirement” from large corporate entities and banks that still run mainframes, says Cumming.
Kelly executive Denise Thomas says skills shortages are more apparent in highly-specialised areas such as IT security, storage and virtualisation. Current job opportunities range from technical support, business analysts, and project managers to solutions sales executives.
Thomas adds that the issue of skills shortages needs addressing. However, good candidates “definitely have a place in the market”. She says the sector is driven by acquired skills and direct entry from secondary education is often not possible. “An aspiring entrant would need to invest in the bare minimum of IT certifications, such as A+ and N+.”
“Job-seekers need to realise they have to upskill themselves for the South African job market,” she says. This includes looking for opportunities available to acquire suitable skills, and having basic skills.
“Most companies do not have sufficient staff for hand-holding and it is, therefore, essential to gain some experience. Even limited experience sends a message to prospective employers that you have a mature, can-do attitude,” says Thomas.
However, local companies are also competing for skills that are wanted by international organisations, which pay more, she adds.
Andile Tlhoaéle, CEO of Inforcomm and a member of the ICT charter steering committee, says the lack of the right skills at the right place will cost the economy.
He explains that because specialised or empowered skills are so scarce, people with those skills cost more, which spills over into operating costs.
Companies may have to import skills, or outsource their job requirements, adds Tlhoaéle. “Skills will be expensive, and the cost of delivering the technology becomes expensive.”
Tlhoaéle says when companies either import skills, or outsource functions, human capital development is undermined, and the industry ends up being populated by non-South Africans.
Chris Gilmour, an analyst with Absa Investments, says having a limited pool of candidates from which to choose could also impact productivity, if companies are forced to take the best skill that they can get.
Last month, the low numbers of matriculants passing mathematics and science was a cause for concern for the sector, as this would further limit the pool of candidates available in the next five years.
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