Mobile tech is all the rage

Lara Green

Lara Green, Strong developers with relatable skills should be identified and upskilled

The shortage of ICT skills is negatively impacting on business, with companies struggling to fill technical positions, resulting in delays in delivering goods and services. This could also force organisations to look outside of South Africa for their technical skills requirements, which would have a roll-on effect of damaging the industry and the economy.

The shortage of ICT skills is negatively impacting on business, with companies struggling to fill technical positions, resulting in delays in delivering goods and services. This could also force organisations to look outside of South Africa for their technical skills requirements, which would have a roll-on effect of damaging the industry and the economy.

According to the 2014 JCSE ICT Skills Survey, many of the ‘traditional’ skills in the ICT sector continue to be in demand, due to the pervasive nature of the technologies, together with some new (or increasingly important) ones associated with cloud computing, big data and information security.

According to Ernie Hipner, manager of ITWeb’s online recruitment service, CareerWeb, SA has a massive IT skills crisis and it is getting worse, specifically when looking for developers and software engineers. “Our education system is not producing future IT experts, due to the lack of maths and science in school, therefore creating a situation for poor intake into varsities. There are too few graduates with the necessary IT qualifications from varsities, highlighting the failure of SA’s education system to create a legion of graduates who understand technologies and how they are applied in reallife situations,” says Hipner.

He says CareerWeb is noticing a high demand for developers from various sizes of companies across industries, but SA is unable to provide skilled developers to fill these roles. Java, C#, .net, PHP, Android and iOS developers are particularly in short supply and companies are battling to find these skills.

“In SA, we just don’t have enough skilled developers to choose from. The demand is growing at a rapid pace, with technology being the enabler to innovation, but the pool of available resources is shrinking, and those that are available are definitely selective about the companies they wish to work for,” says Hipner. “Companies are definitely finding it hard to compete to attract top IT talent, resulting in a lengthy process to find a skilled candidate.”

It is his worry that local companies will be forced to outsource their development work to foreign companies that are able to provide these skills

Elite club

Lara Green, branch manager at Network IT Recruitment, agrees: “We have noticed that mobile developers are in very short supply. Due to the technologies being bleeding-edge and constantly changing, there are few skilled candidates. The candidates that do have the mobile development skills are highly sought after, and we struggle to place them.”

She cites three reasons for this. “Firstly, because there are so few of them. Secondly, the ones that are there are not actually looking to leave their current employers.” Although the primary reasons for ICT candidates wanting to leave their roles are either lack of stimulation, lack of learning, or lack of challenging projects, this doesn’t apply to mobile developers, as they are working in a role that is constantly changing, exciting and stimulating, resulting in them being unlikely to even consider leaving.

“Thirdly, it is a nail-biting experience for us when a mobile developer has to resign, even after formal acceptance of a job offer, as a counter-offer is to be expected, often going backwards and forwards several times.”

Green says the skills shortage is affecting her business. “One client has been trying to hire a mobile developer for the past seven months. It has effectively increased five individuals’ current salaries – as each of its prospective candidates received counter-offers that made it impossible for them to leave. The fifth time it happened, we asked the candidate to phone the client and explain, as the whole situation was unbelievable.”

To address the shortage of mobile developers, Green thinks candidates that currently have relatable skills and are strong developers should be identified in companies and upskilled. “Few will say no to the opportunity of learning mobile technologies. I understand that there is a huge demand for companies to be visible and accessible and mobile – but the pool of candidates is only so big. We need to diversify and upskill our current strong resources.”

Hipner believes starting from school and tertiary level is the answer, so more individuals are made aware of the opportunities that exist within IT. “If we get them early enough, we can get them on a path that will see them gain the required education to move into IT. People do not see or know about the various opportunities that exist within IT and that it can be a highly rewarding profession. We need to create more hype and knowledge about the career opportunities that exist in IT.”

The 2014 JCSE ICT Skills Survey mirrors Hipner’s view: “We emphasise again the vital need for improvements in the basic education system, from improved teacher skills to embedding technology across all schools, if we are to create future generations of ‘tech savvy’ young people who can use, adapt and improve on the technology of the day. Without that talent pool, South Africa will always be dependent on the products and services developed outside our borders. With that talent pool, we will be able to foster innovation and entrepreneurship to fuel an improved economic and social outlook.”

 

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