This job title wanted in South Africa has a problem
Of the 26.8 million active software developers in the world, only 121,000 reside in South Africa – out of a total of 716,000 in Africa.
Add to that the fact that 38% of African developers work for at least one organization outside the continent and you can see why tech talent is hard to come by for South African companies.
That’s according to Malcolm Laing, former CIO of the Investec Group and founding member of the Academy of Accelerated Technology Education (AATE), who said that instead of companies vying for a finite number of tech candidates, initiatives aimed at developing the talent pool through on-the-job training and nurturing junior developers makes much more sense.
The shift from monolithic on-premises IT solutions to rental and cloud-assembly models further exacerbates the relentless demand for technology talent locally and globally, Laing said.
He pointed to the latest ICT skills survey of 2021 which highlighted nearly 10,000 hard-to-fill positions in South Africa’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector, in a country where 12.5% of graduates are unemployed.
“There just aren’t enough technical skills in the country to meet business demand. This is the crux of the matter – intelligence is not lacking. These graduates are amazing – we find brilliant people coming out of universities, but their technical skills aren’t quite what’s required for the job, which is partly because university curricula don’t keep pace with the technological change and therefore graduates are unable to get started,” Laing said.
“That’s not to say that universities don’t have a place in teaching fundamental technology skills. If you are taught the basics of technology properly and understand the impact of code, then you understand the underlying fundamentals of the tech world, but every 18 months the tech industry changes,” said he declared.
These sentiments are echoed by Stephen van der Heijden, vice president of community at OfferZen, who said that talent is universally distributed, but opportunity is not. In short, there are unknown people who do not realize their potential and the mission is to find these unknown developers.
Technology talent specialist OfferZen has released its 2022 State of the Developer Nation Reportin February, showing that the average salaries of senior software developers have increased by 19% since 2019, while less experienced developers have seen their salaries increase by 7.4% over the same period.
The report revealed that over 30% of South African developers were looking to move jobs in the next 3 to 12 months. Work-life balance is the biggest reason why South African developers stay in a role, according to the report’s findings.
Overall, fewer South African developers are considering moving overseas this year than in 2021. At the same time, the majority are still open to seeking overseas jobs and 1 in 5 are exploring actively pursue international opportunities.
Senior developers are most likely to be exploring new horizons already, while tech leads are most likely to stick around through the various seniority tiers, OfferZen said.
According to van der Heijden, the majority of junior software developers change jobs every few months.
For a software company, onboarding and training juniors, then quickly losing them, can be a costly exercise. The acute problem of junior developers, according to Van der Heijden, is also that without a track record, companies find it difficult to assess the abilities of junior software developers.
“As a result, they use work experience as an indicator of quality. It’s hard to get hired if you don’t have any work experience, and this is especially true in software development.
These factors make it difficult for junior developers to land great developer jobs where they can learn and grow — even as the profession continues to grow in size and importance in our economy, Van der Heijden said.
As such, global tech companies, businesses, local educators, and governments need to strengthen the pipeline of developers by investing in education that builds trust in those developers and makes them easily employable.
“In South Africa we have over 600,000 unemployed university graduates. If we take in 10% of graduates, who may have studied the wrong degree or are simply struggling to find a job, that’s 60,000 people with accelerated training on three critical skill paths: Certified Cloud Software Engineers, Engineers security and data scientists,” Laing said.
At the end of the program, students will take the Institute of Chartered Information Technology Professionals (ICITP) board examination, which will provide them with a qualification recognized by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) in their chosen specialization.
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