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Tech Talent Crisis: Are We Doomed?


The Great South African Skills Heist: How Our Labour Market Went Awry

South Africa’s skills crisis is no longer just a whisper, it’s a screaming siren warning us of an impending catastrophe. With unemployment rates soaring to a whopping 32%, the nation is faced with an unprecedented shortage of skilled workers. So, what’s going on?

First, let’s examine the education system. Lindsay Cowan, co-founder and CEO at One Degree, claims that our institutions are churning out graduates who aren’t equipped with the skills employers demand. It’s not just a case of theory versus practice, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we think about skills development. We’re still peddling qualifications, rather than employable skills. Tshepo Motshegoa, CIO at SEACOM, agrees: "We need to produce skilled individuals, not just graduates."

But it’s not just about education. Brain drain is another significant contributor to our skills crisis. According to CareerJunction’s employment insights report, the more experience an employee has, the more likely they are to jump ship for a job overseas. And if they can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll look abroad. This is a serious blow to our economy, as it shrinks our talent pool even further.

And then there’s the AI effect. AI is revolutionizing industries, creating new jobs, and augmenting existing ones. However, this shift means that certain skills are becoming redundant. AI provides a platform to streamline work, making it more efficient and allowing employees to focus on the creative aspects of their jobs. Microsoft South Africa’s Kalane Rampai claims that their Copilot technology has already had a significant impact, with 75% of users saying it improves the quality of their work.

So, what can we do to address this crisis? One key lesson we can learn from other markets is the importance of collaboration. Germany’s dual apprenticeship system is a shining example of what can be achieved when industry, government, and educational institutions work together. South Africa would do well to emulate this model.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Lifelong learning initiatives are crucial in ensuring that employees keep pace with the rapidly changing business landscape. Continuous learning is the only way to guarantee that no individual or business is left behind.

In conclusion, South Africa’s skills crisis is a complex issue with no simple solution. However, by acknowledging the root causes – including education, brain drain, and the rise of AI – we can start to develop effective strategies to address it. Only then can we hope to bridge the chasm between our skills needs and availability, and begin to rebuild a vibrant, skilled workforce that drives growth and prosperity.



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