Addressing The Skills Gap

By Jessie Taylor

At the start of each year, a new cohort embarks on a journey to obtain the skills necessary to secure their place in the workforce. Yet despite these young minds entering higher learning opportunities, many South African companies still face a shortage of skills in the workplace. Estimates suggest that as many as 78% of South African employers have difficulty finding digitally skilled workers. With predictions saying that over 230 million jobs will require digital expertise by 2030, these digitally skilled workers will become increasingly in demand. But the technology sector is not the only one with a skills gap.

According to the 2023 South African Salary Survey, published by professional recruitment firm Robert Walters, the landscape for professionals has shifted, with both employers and employees looking for different qualities from each other in a post-COVID world. Employers are in need of highly qualified professionals and specialist skills, while employees are looking for a workplace that supplies flexible working hours, good pay and strong company culture. The survey found that South African businesses are in dire need of skills across almost every sector.

A Need For Highly Skilled Professionals

South African businesses have long warned that they struggled with a shortage of IT skills. These skills are in demand globally, and local professionals are often recruited to work remotely for international companies. This shortage in IT professionals comes at a time when many companies are in the process of digital migration, and most employees require education to adapt to increasingly digital workplaces. Among the fields most in demand in the IT space are cyber security, big data analytics, DevOps, artificial intelligence, application development, data management, test automation and performance testing, the internet of things, and connectivity.

Data science skills are in high demand not only in the technology sector but also in other sectors such as media and entertainment, financial services, and professional services, said Absa. Another report, this one by recruitment group Michael Page, highlights that there is a strong demand for specific professionals, especially as international companies poach local talent.

According to the report, in the banking and financial services industry, the most in-demand jobs are internal audit manager, senior trader and senior relationship manager. In the engineering and manufacturing sector, the most sought-after professionals are heads of engineering, project directors, and quality assurance and control managers. The most in-demand jobs for the finance and accounting sector are commercial finance manager and controller, tax-oriented roles and finance manager. The sector is also seeing a need for employees who have both accounting and technical skills, along with regional and African experience.

The legal industry is in need of corporate commercial in-house counsel, compliance officers and managers, and lawyers specialising in fintech, IT and ICT. The report found a shortage of skills in the sector has been exacerbated by candidates’ emigration to international opportunities. In the procurement and supply chain sector, there is a need for supply chain, demand and procurement planners, while the sales and marketing sector indicated it most needed business development managers, digital marketing managers and heads of marketing.

Top 10 Universities in South Africa

6 of South Africa’s universities made into the top 500 in the world, according to the University Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP) field rankings for 2024, with another 3 making it into the top 1 000. The URAP ranking system focuses on academic quality, with scores based on several indicators such as current scientific productivity, research impact, research quality, and international acceptance:

  1. University of Cape Town (243)
  2. University of Witwatersrand (340)
  3. Stellenbosch University (362)
  4. University of KwaZulu-Natal (371)
  5. University of Johannesburg (467)
  6. University of Pretoria (475)
  7. North West University (589)
  8. University of the Free State (884)
  9. UNISA (970)
  10. University of the Western Cape (1048)

In URAP’s 2022 field rankings, The University of Cape Town came in for its courses in infectious disease; anthropology; public, environmental and occupational health; human movement and sports sciences; and immunology. The University of the Witwatersrand ranked among the top 100 for anthropology; infectious disease; public, environmental and occupational health; studies in human society; women’s studies.

Stellenbosch University scored among the top 100 for infectious disease; public, environmental and occupational health; and zoology, while the University of Johannesburg was placed in the top 100 for anthropology. The University of Pretoria placed among the top 100 for zoology, veterinary sciences and economics, with the University of KwaZulu Natal placing for infectious disease and public, environmental and occupational health.

Sources: Briefly / Business Tech / ITWeb / News24 / URAP

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