It is a well known fact that South Africa faces a significant obstacle to our 4IR ambitions thanks to a lack of critical digital skills development.

It is a task that does not fall solely on government to address either, which means the private and enterprise sectors need to lend their expertise when it comes to tackling the digital skills shortage in the country.

This one of the numerous discoveries unpacked earlier today at a media event involving Microsoft SA and research firm IDC. The former commissioned a study to look at the South African workplace, with IDC extensively interviewing 70 IT decision makers across the country.

The report, titled Future of Work Skills (PDF), looked at the issue of skills development through the lens of digital transformation, with 71 percent of organisations already in the midst of their own journeys.

The research also found that 44 percent of organisations are finding it difficult to recruit staff with the necessary skills required, which results in poaching from competitors in many cases.

While this sometimes has the added benefit of cross-pollination of skills to different industries, it also means that the students coming out of universities and tertiary institutions are being looked over. This as expertise is viewed as a greater requirement than qualifications are.

Speaking to Microsoft SA and IDC, trying to develop better opportunities to gain expertise at the curriculum level is challenging, and will take time. In the interim, however, firms are actively pursuing the reskilling or upskilling route.

To that end more than half of the organisations involved in this study are trying to upskill their employees to meet the changing requirements of the workplace.

“To access the level of digital expertise needed, companies are finding a good balance between sourcing external talent and growing skills internally. Already 55 percent of South African companies are actively upskilling their employees,” the report explains.

“This likely stems from the fact that businesses believe there is much to be gained from improving their digital skills base, particularly when it comes to accelerating their digital transformation journeys,” it continues.

This is not simply a one way street though, and requires employees to change their mindsets too. Here Microsoft SA and IDC concur that the traditional workplace life cycle is being upended, and employees are increasingly adopting a model where skills are an element that are constantly being added to and improved.

For now though the local education system is not geared towards a similar mentality, and will necessitate a serious paradigm shift.

In the interim though, those already embedded in the workplace, need to embrace opportunities to acquire new digital skills if they are to thrive in the future of work.

[Image – Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash]