Is South Africa in need of a 'skills revolution' or do we simply need to focus on education?
In March 2006, South Africa's deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka announced that there is a skills crisis in South Africa and that the nation is in need of a skills revolution. Kris Jarzebowski, managing director of CareerJunction, an online job board, attributes this to the fact that many candidates seek greener pastures overseas.
"Many skilled South Africans leave the country because they have been lured by bigger salaries and the expectation of a better lifestyle, but without understanding the expense of the living portion of the equation," says Jarzebowski.
According to Bev Jack, managing director PAG - Professional Assignments Group - the skills shortage in South Africa has been a problem for some time and that economic and political activities all radiate down to the skills shortage and training and learnership programmes. "We need innovative ways of developing skills. We need to attract and retain the right skills to work in South Africa, skills like finance and engineering are very attractive to international countries and so our people will move elsewhere to explore these opportunities," says Jack.
Jarzebowski reiterates that there are certain professions, like the medical profession, that expect good remuneration and that when candidates expectations are not met locally, they will leave the country in search of better opportunities.
According to Alana Bailey, manager of the Come Home Campaign, approximately 45% of the enquiries received by the Campaign's advice bureau indicate that South Africans living overseas would return to South Africa immediately if they were to find lucrative employment locally. However, Jack emphasises that having some of our talent offshore can also be a good thing as our workforce is being exposed to the world's best practises and skills transfer.
"The challenge for South Africa is that we need to make this country attractive enough to entice South Africans to come back home and this is both a governmental and corporate challenge," she says.
Jack adds that we need to support apprenticeship type programmes for technical and engineering skills as well as senior financial and chartered accountants. "Sourcing talent from overseas is a long term initiative to transfer those more scarce skills to our own talent," she says. Jarzebowski agrees that mentorship and tutorship programmes that transfer needed skills are a very good way to go about skilling up the nation.
Jack goes on to explain that there is also a government drive for business process outsourcing (BPO) for IT support and technical areas whereby foreign countries will outsource their technical team's requirements to companies based in South Africa. "We are playing in a global market and language competencies are crucial. There is an increasing trend for South African companies to provide technical support to the European market, which goes a long way for job creation," says Jack. "This trend is evident on CareerJunction where we have noticed more and more jobs being advertised for positions based in South Africa that require European language skills such as French, German and Dutch," says Jarzebowski.
Since January 2006, the top two sectors where jobs have been advertised and résumés posted are information technology followed by the financial sector. This correlation illustrates a match of the supply to the demand in these sectors. However the sectors do not match in the third, fourth and fifth biggest sectors with an indication of an under-supply of résumés in engineering, building and construction and FMCG, retail and wholesale and an over-supply in admin, office and support, manufacturing, production and trade and education.
Hot air or not?
CBR would like to know what our readers think of the skills shortage in South Africa. Is there one? Why are we talking about importing skills when 30% or 40% of the working population is unemployed? What solutions are there? How should business address the situation? How should government come to the party?