The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry is an important contributor to growth in every economy as it contributes 5% of GDP and drives 20% of overall productivity growth (Doh 2009). As more and more companies in South Africa globally seek to benefit from technology, the demand for professionals skilled in various IT jobs has grown exponentially. In South Africa, this demand far exceeds supply, leading to a particularly severe digital skills gap says Dion (2021). In 2020, South Africa ranked 59th out of 63 economies in the Institute for Management Development’s (IMD) World Competitiveness Yearbook – its lowest ranking since the inception of the yearbook.

ICT skills shortages are affecting all industries globally. Acquiring suitable ICT skills globally and in South Africa has become a difficult task says Andre (2014) in South African ICT graduate skills requirement article. The ICT industry has indicated that graduates require a diverse set of skills to kick-start their careers. With 4IR commencing in South Africa it is important that youth know about the value of their chosen career and if they will still be valuable in the coming years.

There is a significant mismatch between demand and supply in the digital and ICT skills ecosystem in South Africa. Many pathways to jobs are traditional and outdated and not necessarily meeting the needs of the ever-evolving work models. Some candidate selection processes are exclusionary, as they mainly look at taking degreed or certified candidates when only a small pool of talent can get a degree or certification. Candidates that have the right aptitude and problem-solving skills (as opposed to numeracy or literacy skills) are not given a chance when they could be more likely to succeed in these roles. English speaking and communication for many young people in South Africa is often a barrier to accessing these digital roles are of high complexity, which is a problem across various entry-level roles.

Evolving developments in digital and ICT technologies have intensified the need for employers to source, hire and retain talent that can keep up with exponential change while also capitalising on disruptive digitalisation opportunities. Organisations in South Africa therefore face the challenges of developing and maintaining multi-talented, multi-skilled workforces that meet the criteria of digital workplace demands, virtualised teams and the rapidly evolving world of work. As such, demand for skills far outstrips supply in the digital economy. Traditional pathways are not addressing the market demand and there is rampant outsourcing and offshoring of digital jobs, coupled with unprecedented levels of unemployment in the country, Greyling (2014).

According to Moses Shilenge this gap needs to be covered by prompting the economy to train individuals and place them in these various roles. That’s good news for the individuals that have an interest and passion for IT and those who are driven to solve problems through technology which allows them to establish a future-proof career. Geeks4learning, a training academy that helps to bridge that gap through providing industry aligned training and giving students work-ready experience.

Technology has the power to help level the economic playing field in South Africa as it has a lot of opportunity for access to well-paying jobs that increase economic activity. In fact, technology-driven change is already underway in this country, as I witnessed first-hand while spending time there exploring the local start up ecosystem says Moses.

Digital and ICT technologies have intensified the need for employers to implement programmes that support lifelong learning and adaptation. Research by McKinsey finds that the nature or content of jobs is constantly evolving to the extent that between 75 million and 375 million workers (globally) will have to change occupational categories, i.e., change their skill sets by 2030. This ability of workers to re-invent themselves must be instilled at primary/secondary school level through STEAM education systems. As such, an integrated approach is needed to engender create-and-solve skills in learners and students.

There are significant job creation opportunities that can be developed when the potential of reshoring digital and ICT work back to South Africa is coupled with the added potential of growing South Africa’s share of global and digitally traded services. An estimated 28,800 digital and ICT jobs that have been outsourced to other countries could be restored back to the country if the right financial and non-financial incentives – and concurrent right-skilling programmes – are implemented. Greyling (2014).

Right-skilling refers to the need for the skills ecosystem to develop the right/best-fit demand-led skills that meet the roles, functions, and competencies of the digital and ICT work that organisation are currently outsourcing to other countries. Many of the in demand entry-level roles required for this purpose could be addressed through short work-specific training programmes such as those offered by Geeks4learning.  Besides offering industry aligned {IT} qualifications, Geeks4learning makes sure that before a student is enrolled in a course, they are offered counselling by industry experts which prepares them for kick starting their career as Moses said “every individual has a different interest in ICT. For employability, aim to bridge the gap, but ensure that your choice is aligned with your passion and interest” it is important that every individual studies a course that will benefit them.

Moses is very proud of choosing to pursue a career in ICT as he has contributed to building a solution that users love using and the endless learning and knowledge shared with those individuals who have a passion to resolve the problem. He also mentioned that in the ICT industry one needs to stay relevant, and you can do that by subscribing to tech blogs, and use the internet to check for trends, conduct your research, and understand the roles. See which one aligns with your personality. Then seek out career counselling for further guidance.

In addition, digital and ICT offshoring opportunities could further build South Africa’s value proposition as an IT outsourcing (ITO) destination of choice in the areas of technical support, data services, data cleaning and labelling, web services, analytics and testing. Moreover, IT-enabling opportunities exist to develop competencies and skills that enable South Africa to pivot into next-generational digitalised services that includes artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, biotech, quantum computing and nanotechnology. With that being said, it is important that South African youth know about the main ICT trends which are automation, multi-experience, democratisation of the use of technology, human perfection and lastly transparency and traceability.