Proudly home grown

Pieter Bencsch

Pieter Bencsch

South African enterprises are increasingly investing in addressing the high-level and specialised skills shortages that persist in the country, but project timelines can work to undermine their best intentions. This is according to Pieter Bensch, MD of HP South Africa, who says there is a growing willingness among local enterprises to invest in skills development in their IT departments.

South African enterprises are increasingly investing in addressing the high-level and specialised skills shortages that persist in the country, but project timelines can work to undermine their best intentions. This is according to Pieter Bensch, MD of HP South Africa, who says there is a growing willingness among local enterprises to invest in skills development in their IT departments. “There is still a shortage of high-level and specialised IT skills in the country, particularly in the so-called ‘third platform’ or new style of IT fields. B-BBEE is having a positive impact in addressing this shortfall by forcing companies to make budget for ongoing staff skills development, so progress is being made.”

However, developing high-end skills with management expertise and the necessary focus on solutions rather than product takes time. Meanwhile, projects must be delivered. “Companies tend to look offshore for specialised skills, rather than delay a project. These skills typically come at a higher cost from areas like India, Egypt and Eastern Europe. Because these highly skilled resources are usually based offshore rather than imported to work on a project in South Africa, skills transfer is not the norm in these cases.”

Meanwhile, IT professionals are actively seeking out opportunities to develop in their careers. “We often find professionals asking during a job interview: ‘what is the company prepared to invest in my development?’” says Bensch. Those who have already achieved a high level of expertise may come with inflated salary expectations and at the risk of their being poached.

Next-generation skills

To meet the expectations of next-generation employees, grow a localised skills pool and improve their own productivity and ability to deliver, local companies are putting significantly more effort into staff skills development than they did 10 years ago, says Bensch.

“HP is meeting the need for local IT skills development through multifaceted training and development programmes. For example, each employee has a personal development plan in place; the company makes virtual and live technical and business training available; and the HP Business Institute extends the benefits of this high-end training to local SMEs and aspiring IT professionals.”

The Institute, which opened in 2007, has already launched over 1 199 learnerships and engaged over 90 SMEs participating in over 826 short courses. HP is also harnessing mobile and looking to gamification to enhance its training and development.

Bensch believes development initiatives such as these will have long-term benefits in terms of staff morale, IT service standards and improvement of the broader IT ecosystem.

Upcoming training courses