There is still a persistent specialised ICT skills gap that South Africa needs to tackle. This is the assertion made by several speakers at the Digital Skills Summit at Leaderex 2019, which wraps up this week.

The aforementioned gap remains despite an increase in competitive salaries and plans to build a skills development pipeline.

A large contributor to the ICT skills gap remaining as is, is down to South Africa’s education system and enterprise environment not being feared towards the delivery of high-end ICT skills in the manner that the country needs.

“Over 1.2 million young people go into the basic education system and if we’re lucky, around a quarter of them finish matric. How can they get a good start in the digital world if they can’t even get through basic education? There is not enough investment in basic education to create the pool of ICT skills South Africa needs,” explains the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa’s (IITPSA) Adrian Schofield.

He goes on to note that while education investment was an important area to start in, industry bodies, vendors and enterprises also have to invest in upskilling young professionals and giving them the experience they needed to enter the job market and progress into key roles.

Another contributing factor is South Africa losing highly skilled ICT professionals and seeing an influx of foreign ICT skills at the same time, which confused the issue and made it difficult to determine how many skills the country actually had, and what the shortfall was, according to Schofield.

Nic Botes, technical lead at OfferZen, adds that said there is high demand in the South African market for key software skills such as .Net, Java, JavaScript, PHP and Python, but skills in Ruby, Swift and Scala remain very scarce.

If SA is to increase the number of skilled professionals in the above areas needing attention, Botes explains that higher salaries alone will not do the trick.

“For in-demand software developers, it’s not just about salary. They place great importance on the value of a job. This means they care about the work environment – their autonomy, responsibilities and opportunities to be challenged. They want to know they share the same values as their employer. And benefits and perks play a role too – right down to things like flexitime and free lunches,” Botes concludes.

With the hurdles now highlighted, it remains to be seen how they are tackled in order to close the specialised ICT skills gap that the country needs to rectify.

Perhaps next year’s Digital Skills Summit will address the solutions that SA requires.

[Image – Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash]