This may come as a surprise to you but there are a lot of jobs out there. Okay, so maybe it’s not exactly the kind of job you’re looking for, but believe me, in some sectors, there are too many vacancies for too few people. A while back I was part of a team that researched the skills scenario in the engineering sector with special focus on the oil and gas industry. We identified then that there was a major skills shortage and that jobs could not be filled. The demand was simply greater than the supply.
I was also part of a project where we looked at the IT sector, and again it showed us that there is much greater demand for skills than the country can supply. Up to 30% shortage in some cases. It’s getting so bad, that we are importing skills in the IT sector from abroad, just to meet some of the demand, and it’s actually still not enough. The problem with importing the skills is the difficulty of cultures and language. Many of the resources for starters battle with the language. And that’s verbal, not programming language for all you geeks out there. In one case that stands out for me, I sat in an interview with a candidate fresh of the plane from some foreign destination, armed with his South African work permit, and skills certificates, but he could hardly string two sentences together in English. The client immediately rejected this person. So it was back to square one. Alright, so we’ve established that there is a shortage of skills in IT. Now I’m not going to unleash a whole lot of stats on you, and try to explain exactly where the shortages are.
It is enough to say that in both the software development side, as well as in the broader IT areas, like computer support, we lack the necessary people to fulfil the demands out there. What I found interesting was some of the reasons why globally this was now a problem. Yes, globally. You see, we are not alone in this shortage. In other areas like the USA and UK, the problem also exists. And here are some of the reasons why we believe there is a shortage. The number of undergraduates who have signed up for computer science has dropped by up to 70% since 2000. This means we are just not developing enough school leavers for a career in IT. Now consider that against the belief that by 2010, one out of every four jobs will be in IT. Yes, it means the situation is bound to get worse unless we do something about it. In our own country the problem is further exacerbated by the fact that Maths and Science are not the most attractive subjects to our learners. So if we really want to address the problem, we have to start much earlier than University. Another reason for this decline in IT skills is that more than half of the current IT staff would not recommend IT as a career. No wonder then that the industry has shortages.
Like engineering, the whole IT environment is not seen as one of the cool jobs to get. People are going more for the lifestyle industries, like advertising, sales and marketing. The challenge is to make IT cool again. Was it ever cool? Okay let’s not debate that one, let’s just say that there’s going to be a lot more choice out there if you choose IT as a career path. I am busy reading a book about the success of the Google guys and it struck me there as well that the world turned it’s back on the potential of the internet a few years back, only now to discover that it has barely understood the prospects that it could uncover. Now without suggesting you could be the next big thing in IT, just think of what IT did for them. It turned a garage project into a $30 billion business. Imagine all the cool things that can be done if we developed brilliant IT minds in this country. Imagine all the benefits that could be gained if we were able to supply all the IT vacancies with local talent. So instead of wondering how you could possibly find any work in this country. Stop and take a look around. It may require you to learn a few more skills, but believe me, there are jobs out there. Go find IT!