Tech innovation needed to solve employment crisis in SA

Image created using AI, by Marcus Moloko

South Africa’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector is facing a double-edged sword.

While demand for IT skills remains high, recruitment activity has declined significantly. A recent CareerJunction Employment Insights report revealed an 11% year-on-year decline in hiring for the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023.

This two-year trend paints a worrying picture, with a 26% year-on-year decrease in overall hiring activity.

This situation unfolds against the backdrop of a bleak national unemployment rate hovering around 33.9%. While some businesses resort to layoffs in uncertain economic times, tech leaders believe the answer lies in collaboration and a multi-pronged approach to skills development.

Reskilling and upskilling for the AI revolution

Salesforce, a leading cloud computing company, emphasizes the importance of preparing the workforce for the rise of artificial intelligence (AI).

Their research indicates a significant skills gap, with over 60% of full-time desk workers lacking the necessary knowledge to leverage generative AI technologies, despite acknowledging its career potential.

“We need to act urgently,” says Ursula Fear, Senior Talent Programme Manager at Salesforce South Africa. “We can’t afford a situation where graduates with certifications aren’t employable due to a lack of practical skills.” Fear stresses the need to upskill the existing workforce and equip AI specialists with the expertise to implement, monitor, and secure AI systems effectively.

Collaboration is key: Education and mentorship

Fear highlights the limitations of traditional education and certifications alone. She advocates for a collaborative effort between the government and the private sector to bridge the digital skills gap. This collaboration should focus on providing young people with practical experience through mentorship programs and hands-on training.

“Education and certifications are crucial,” says Fear, “but what’s truly needed is hands-on experience and mentorship to develop future leaders and entrepreneurs who can drive the South African economy forward.”

Leveraging technology for opportunity creation

Blink by MiWay, a digital insurance provider, emphasizes the potential of technology to create opportunities. “Technology is here to stay,” says Keletso Mpisane, Head of Blink by MiWay. “We can leverage it to create professional and personal opportunities, especially in a high-unemployment environment like South Africa.”

The insurance sector itself is evolving alongside technology. Mpisane highlights the growing demand for skills such as data analysis, legal knowledge, and technical proficiency in areas like data control and big data. Developing these skills creates a platform for career advancement within the insurance industry.

Equipping the next generation

Zoho, a global technology company, believes that affordable access to the right technological tools can empower future generations. “The right tech tools at the right price can significantly impact digital literacy and develop the ICT skills South Africa needs,” says Andrew Bourne, Regional Head, Africa at Zoho.

Bourne emphasizes the importance of “future-proofing” children by equipping them with the necessary digital and development skills to compete in the job market of tomorrow. He points to low-code development platforms as an example, allowing users with moderate technical knowledge to create complex business applications without extensive training.

Women in Tech: fostering mentorship and innovation

The rise of online sports betting platforms like Sportingbet presents new opportunities, particularly for women in the tech sector. Gail Odgers, Head of Acquisition at Sportingbet, emphasizes the need for continuous mentorship and learning opportunities for women in the industry. “Soft skills development and engagement through industry updates, coaching, and networking opportunities are crucial,” says Odgers.

Looking ahead, Odgers expresses optimism about the future of sports betting in South Africa, particularly for women entrepreneurs and business leaders.

South Africa’s tech sector faces a skills gap and a job crisis. However, the insights from these tech leaders paint a hopeful picture.

Collaboration between government, educational institutions, and the private sector can create a future workforce equipped with the skills needed to thrive in the digital age. By fostering a culture of mentorship, continuous learning, and embracing technological advancements, South Africa can unlock the potential of its tech sector and empower its people to build a brighter future.

Also read: An AI solution to aging power grids



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