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HOW CAN TECH INNOVATION ADDRESS SA’S EMPLOYMENT CRISIS?

Mamsi Nkosi | 8 June 2024



South Africa’s ICT sector is currently experiencing a significant hiring slowdown, with recruitment declining by 11% year-on-year compared to the first quarter of 2023. This is according to the latest CareerJunction Employment Insights report, gathered from Saongroup South Africa, which works with over 5,000 of SA’s top recruiters.


According to the report, despite the continued demand for IT skills, the sector continues to experience a dip in hiring activity, with a 26% year-on-year decline over the last two years.


In South Africa, big businesses have eyed layoffs in various sectors as a way to navigate uncertain economic times. Economists from the Bureau of Economic Research reported that despite a recent one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate from 32.9% to 33.9%, it remains bleak.


Tech business leaders share their insights on what can be done to turn the economic tide, not only from a job creation perspective, but also to create meaningful work experiences and provide accredited training for the digital skills of the future.


Salesforce


Salesforce research has indicated that more than 60% of full-time desk workers do not have the skills to use generative AI technology, even though most of them are convinced this knowledge will advance their careers. As a result, training the next generation, as well as reskilling the current generation when it comes to AI, is a key component of the tech revolution


According to Ursula Fear, Senior Talent Programme Manager at Salesforce South Africa, AI specialists need to be empowered to implement rapidly, monitor, and ensure best security practices when it comes to AI.


“We need to act urgently to mitigate the fact that we don’t want to have too many certified yet unemployable young people entering the workforce. Importing talent is not a long-term solution and we cannot extend the contracts of those who enter the country to fix the problem now. We need to upskill locally and ensure that we have the talent to take the vital technology sector, which contributes about 8% to the economy, to the next level,” says Fear.


“South Africa requires a mindset change, and the government cannot address the skills crisis alone. It requires collaboration and partnership from the business sector to form long-term solutions that tangibly address the existing digital skills gap by providing youth with hands-on experience. Education and tertiary certifications form a critical component of empowering our current and future ICT workforce, but what is truly needed is the provision of hands-on experience and mentorship to sustainably develop leaders and entrepreneurs of the future and grow the South African economy,” adds Fear.


Blink by MiWay: Embracing technology means creating opportunities


Technology is here to stay, and with high unemployment levels in South Africa and a tech job crisis, there are many ways in which we can use technology to create opportunities, both professionally and personally.


“As a technology-first business, we highly value the right digital skills and appreciate that what encompasses digital and tech skills is constantly being expanded, along with digital innovation”, says Keletso Mpisane, Head of Blink by MiWay.


Skills needed in the insurance sector include analytical skills, attention to detail, legal knowledge, and technical proficiency. These skills all abide by the use of technology, specifically with data control and the use of big data. The development of these skills is needed for the insurance sector, which provides a platform for those skills to be honed and nurtured and creates opportunities for work.


Zoho: The right tech tools at the right price


As Andrew Bourne, Regional Head, Africa at Zoho, believes, “the right tech tools, at the right price can support digital literacy and develop the ICT skills South Africa needs”.

In fact, says Bourne, “we need to future-proof children so that they are equipped to apply for jobs that require digital and development skills”.


“With low-code platforms, for example, citizen developers can create complex and powerful business applications without requiring costly and lengthy training. Most low-code application development can be managed with users who only have moderate technical knowledge,” he adds.


Sportingbet: Innovation sparks job creation


The rise of online sports betting platforms is creating new skills development and employment opportunities, with technology playing a crucial role in job creation, in particular for women.


Gail Odgers, Head of Acquisition at Sportingbet, says: “It’s important for systems to be put in place that facilitate mentorship, learning opportunities, and skill development for women, and this needs to be a continuous process. Also, soft skills development and engagement leveraging industry updates, coaching, and engaging with other women in the industry at conferences.


“I feel positive about the future outlook for sports betting in South Africa. Things look very different today than they did even five years ago. We are seeing more women rising in this space and it would be good to see more women in sports betting business ownership,” adds Odgers.


‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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