IT skills crisis – an urban legend?

Companies complain that they are unable to meet employment equity quotas because of the shortage of qualified and experienced black people. Emigration, early retirement and quitting because of deteriorating working conditions and relatively low wages are said to be to blame for the lack of skilled human capital.

A growing shortage of skills and talent in IT and business is threatening business growth around the world.

The Information Technology Association of South Africa is taking the lead in bringing all the relevant stakeholders around the table to forge collaborative partnerships that will have an impact on this dire situation.

The aim of this summit to be held during the first quarter of 2009 is to achieve agreed resolutions; the objectives include the following:

–To obtain an understanding of what the skills crisis is
–To define and identify where the skills shortage is (specific areas)
–Explore the mismatch between what learners are being taught in academic institutes and what the real life requirements of business are.

Proposed outputs will include (but will not be limited to):

–A commitment for business to assist with placing learners in their organisation for an average of six months experiential training (as part of their tertiary education programme)
–Financial commitments from industry companies to the tertiary institutions, in ensuring effective and sustainable faculty programs
–Learnership programmes with commitment to place candidates in permanent positions, in order to gain the appropriate level of experience
–Launch of an annual IT Careers Exhibition, aimed at the youth
–Resolutions and recommendations to reduce job hopping
–Mobilise resources from government, industry (private public partnerships), academia and civil society in a co-ordinated manner to address the scare-skills crisis; to grow the economy by 4,5% per annum up to 2009, thereafter by 9% until the 2014 target of decreasing the unemployment figure of 30% by 15% is reached.

With regard to the skills issue ITA president Adam Rabie is of the view that there may perhaps not be such a serious crisis and addressing the problem(s) may be an easy task, achievable over a few years.

Rabie acknowledges that the problem will not disappear overnight, but we need to start somewhere and stop talking about the skills shortage problem. He believes that issues contributing to the skills shortage include limited awareness amongst youth as to what a career in IT offers; a potential lack of youth starting early in an IT career (enrolling at tertiary institutions) and possibly the wrong profile of individuals (resulting in high drop-out rates and change in faculty); the mismatch between output from tertiary institutions (IT graduates) and requirements by industry. In addition, market distortions at play, due to factors like job-hopping and over-pricing also contribute significantly to the problem.

"Companies are looking for people with loads of experience, but if someone has had five jobs in two years, how much experience can they pick up?" he asks, adding that each job hop brings with it an increase in remuneration.

He suggest that scorecard requirements for skills development be amended to include factors like actual job placement so that companies are forced to try and retain skills more proactively, Rabie is calling for participation from all the various stakeholders in the industry to come together to address this crisis as a collective unit. Without collaboration or a co-ordinated approach, there will be no impact.

IT Skills crisis discussion

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IT skills crisis – an urban legend?