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In a previous blog post, we initiated a discussion about to what extent there is a shortage of IT skills in South Africa. In a series of upcoming posts, we’ll be expanding on each of the points we made to further the discussion.

We live in a fast-paced, technologically-driven world, where ironically, it’s become even more important to focus on people.

But are companies really doing that when it comes to recruiting new staff?

Companies have a wish list of technical experience they may need. Historically businesses would take on good calibre people and then up-skill them if they didn’t have the specific skill set. However, the trend appears to be more along the lines now of meeting most of the criteria upfront. Part of the spin off problem here is ‘what’s in it for candidates?’

In our experience, (to be fair this isn’t aimed at those of you whom are making a significant effort to invest in your people) companies often focus so much on a person’s CV that they don’t see beyond the qualifications and list of accolades on paper. There’s a perception that it all starts and stops there, and that candidates need to bring a prescribed set of skills to the table and then “hit the ground running”, without much support from the other side.

If there is a skills shortage in South Africa, how can we expect this to be a sustainable way of approaching recruitment?

In other words, what are companies doing from their side to grow and development their people? Are they really prepared to up-skill candidates and invest in teaching new skills?

If a business is serious about expanding and harnessing its human resources, yes. However, this takes dedicated effort and a broader perspective on what constitutes skills development. In the IT industry, the focus would most likely be on building existing development skills on new complex projects, but what about creative problem solving and critical thinking in addition to this, and being able to handle conflict, for example?

In fact, skills shortage or not, as our economy continues to evolve and technology continues to develop, there will need to be a focus on developing certain skills in order to thrive in the future workplace.

The reality is that as technology snowballs, new tech will be coming along faster and faster. There’s little point in wanting a developer who can code in your current tech but has no ability to learn newly available tech. You can look for people who know the tech you need now but also look for the people who can learn the tech you need now (investment).

Also – training, up-skilling doesn’t have to be expensive. The worst developers in South Africa are all intelligent people and only the very worst (stereotypically) need massive cash injections to be useful. There are relatively cheap options open to developing skills. Some of the more expensive ones bring other benefits (help with retention for example – therefore saving costs on bloody recruiter fees) etc.

What do you think about the skills shortage debate, and internal skills development? Share your thoughts in the comments below!