The Wits University report concludes by stating that the demand for relevant skills will continue to outstrip supply, which should be a matter of concern for academia, corporations and society in addressing the unemployment challenge. Photo: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN – Some jobs will disappear, others will grow and jobs that do not even exist today will become commonplace.

This is the conclusion of the 10th edition of the South African Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Skills Survey conducted by the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering at Wits University. 

The research is based on an online survey conducted among “a few hundred” employers and employees in cross-sector South African organisations, of which 40 percent are in the ICT field. 

Some 52 percent of enterprises responding to the survey were South African private enterprises and 19 percent were foreign-owned private enterprises.

The report suggests that in order to survive the future workforce will need to align its skills set to keep pace. Contrary to popular belief that technology destroys jobs the report indicates that there are currently vacancies that are hard to fill. 

According to the 10th ICT skills survey based on data submitted by the BankSeta the following are vacancies that are hard to fill in the banking sector – software developer, ICT security specialist, database designer and administrator, ICT systems analyst, systems administrator, programmer analyst and ICT Communications assistant.

All of these skills are in big demand and are listed as scarce skills. This is also confirmed by remarks by the Capitec Bank chief executive Gerrie Fourie, who was quoted saying recently: “If you give me 100 skilled data engineers, machine learning guys and IT professionals I would take them tomorrow”.

Data analytics has been identified as a major future development area for the banking sector as companies have large quantities of consumer data where the ability to identify trends and develop innovative solutions from that data is required.

The report, however, paints a bleak picture about the availability of such skills since there’s a dearth of statisticians in South Africa according to several reports.

The report also raises concerns about prolonged failure to improve the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) output. 

The 10th edition of the report highlights the fact that the failure to improve Stem will have a serious negative impact on South Africa’s ability to counter the growing risk of cybercrime attacks (estimated as costing R1 billion each year), as well as capacity to maintain a competitive and innovative ICT industry.

The report places priority on the need for investment in teaching and training. This is more critical now in South Africa as the report concludes by stating that the demand for relevant skills will continue to outstrip supply, which should be a matter of concern for academia, corporations and society in addressing the unemployment challenge.

Adrian Schoefied, who is one of the authors of the report, pointed out that to address the ICT skills challenge, academic institutions should not be the only ones carrying the burden. He pointed out that to address the skills challenge society will have to work together. 

According to Schoefiled, corporates and other members of society would have to form part of a solution to the skills challenge. This is also critical as South Africa is gearing for the 4th Industrial Revolution. 

Authors of the report point out that the scarcity of skills in fields such as artificial intelligence, Internet of things, blockchain, automation, data science will impact South Africa's ability to compete in the future.

BUSINESS REPORT