Up to 20 million young people are expected to join the African workforce annually over the next two decades, writes Trent Odgers, Cloud and Hosting Manager, Africa at Veeam. By 2030, 60% of the continent’s population will consist of those under the age of 25.
With the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) becoming a focus point, all signs are pointing to the importance of putting the technology skills in place to meet the data demands of this rapidly-evolving environment.
Unfortunately, it has become very difficult to find good ICT talent in South Africa with many specialists immigrating to the likes of Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand. Simply put, not enough has been done to fill this gap by educating scholars on the potential that exists in this sector.
How the future is being shaped
The time has come to show the emerging workforce the value of being at the cutting-edge of how the future is being shaped.
The ubiquity of mobile devices, the emergence of cloud computing, and faster (and more affordable) data access speeds have contributed to the digital transformation agenda. This has seen companies struggling to keep up with the data-driven expectations of customers who are more connected than ever and have access to so much information. People want their social media queries responded to in real-time and expect service providers to develop products based on their unique requirements. All of this is driven by the growth of data and analytical solutions that encompass artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
The connected world is less about throwing human resources at a problem and more geared towards finding the right kind of talent to complement the technology. This means employees and graduates need to be equipped with the skills needed to unlock the potential that AI and ML bring to fully take advantage of this new technology driven world. These technologies are replacing many administrative-focused positions providing employees with an opportunity to deliver more strategic value.
This value does not necessarily require years of experience. Instead, it requires people who are willing to apply their skills to a variety of different things. The out-of-the-box thinkers need to adopt a figure it out mentality as many opportunities are new and still to be defined. Those individuals that are willing to work hard and go the extra mile will be the ones getting the most advantage in this environment.
Partnering with learning institutions, government
Companies need to reskill themselves and be open to embracing data-led culture. The emerging workforce have grown up only knowing technology, continuous availability, and instant gratification through real-time connections. Moreover, those individuals that have a broad range of skills will stand out from their peers. This is where partnering with tertiary institutions and government become vital. The private and public sectors must show, and support with the necessary training and development, what the necessary skills are for the 4IR and education must help drive home the theoretical aspects of those.
Already, several youth development programmes have been launched in the partner and vendor ecosystems of ICT solution providers.
Still, more can be done to attract and enable the youth towards tech-driven organisations. South Africa, as with many countries on the continent, also needs to compete with the global market to offer those talented individuals a different quality of life that has less to do with the job and more with how they live.
Things like physical safety, career opportunities, and perks beyond a competitive salary are all important factors.
The ICT skills shortage urgently needs to be addressed so that South Africa can secure its future for the next generations to come.