2014 JCSE ICT Skills Survey Report

ICT Skills Environment (read this to find the link to download the report)

2014 can be characterised as a year of mixed signals in the ICT skills environment. On one hand, the size of the global IT market will reach almost $4 trillion in 2015 – a four-fold increase in the last 15 years. On the other hand, Microsoft is reducing its workforce by 20% - about 18 000 fewer employees.

The “Internet of Things” is a reality, with hundreds of millions of objects being connected each year. The new and emerging technologies are creating strong demand for certain skills sets while the re-shaping of some well-established players is resulting in the laying off of tens of thousands of practitioners. The five-year long slowing of the global economy continues to affect the rate of growth in the ICT sector as its client industries seek to tighten their budgets and reduce expenditures.

The 2014 IT Skills and Salary Report (Global Knowledge & Windows IT Pro, 2014) includes the following highlights:

  • “Professionals are wearing many hats” – across the four main functional areas (applications/middleware, IT infrastructure, collaboration/ telecommunication and business transformation), more than half work in two or three areas and one-third works in all four.
  • “Training matters” – 85% of respondents undertook some training in the last year, mainly to acquire new skills or update current ones. 61% wanted the certification of their skills.
  • “Certain skills stand out” – organisations are focusing on enhancing security, improving competency in virtualisation, continuing migration to cloud-based applications and services, revamping network infrastructure and reviewing resources allocated to servers and storage.

Although the Global Knowledge report has predominantly North American respondents, its findings resonate with our local environment, emphasising that the ICT skills environment is a global one in many respects.

The EIU reports that the European Commission (EC) continues to predict that as many as 900 000 jobs requiring a high level of digital skills will remain unfilled by 2015 (The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2012). This against the background that the EC claims more than half the existing labour force does not have sufficient skills in this field. In the UK, less than 20 000 people graduated with a IT-related degree, while e-skills UK estimates they need 140 000 new entrants each year.

At the Orlando Gartner Symposium/Expo 2014, delegates were told that the current peak skills are in the mobile, user experience and data sciences fields but in three years from now the focus will be on smart machines, robotics, automated judgement and ethics. Within seven years, the top jobs in the digital environment will be integration specialists, digital business architects, regulatory analysts and risk professionals.

American IT staffing company Modis suggests that IT security jobs will show the strongest growth over the period to 2022, followed by big data and mobility (Modis, 2014). The company’s president believes that the increased use of tablets and smartphones for work tasks is exacerbating the risks and driving the demand for skills to mitigate them. Included in the Cisco 2014 Annual Security Report is an estimate that there are 1 million unfilled (IT) security jobs globally (Cisco, 2014).

The African context

The emerging economies in Africa are perceived to be opportunities for above average growth in the adoption of technologies, as they become better-connected. Countries such as Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt are actively promoting themselves as desirable locations for technology innovation and entrepreneurship. With about three-quarters of the 1 billion Africans already using mobile phones, the acceleration in “mobile money” services is expected to achieve more than US$160 billion in transaction value by 2016[i].

African IT leaders surveyed by IBM in South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco and Nigeria identified mobile, analytics, social and cloud as critical to business success, although only half are pushing forward to adoption (IBM Center for Applied Insights, 2014). A lack of available talent is one of the factors inhibiting the rate of implementation.

In spite of its early leadership of the continent’s technology sectors, South Africa has fallen behind in recent years. There are a number of factors contributing to this slippage, ranging from limited numbers of matriculants and graduates in the STEM disciplines, through to delayed or failed implementations of technology projects by government.

In an interview with ITWeb (October 2014), the JCSE’s Professor Barry Dwolatzky said, “Our problem is huge and should never be underestimated. There are two-and-a-half times more youth unemployed than adults in South Africa, and 60% in total on the continent. We’re at risk of losing an entire generation if vital steps aren’t taken.”

He believes that to fulfil its destiny, Africa needs to become a leading developer and innovator of digital technology over the next few decades. "Digital technology provides a good route to absorb some of the youth unemployment. There are several ways in which this can be done throughout schools, universities and internships. If we skill Africa's youth, via a pipeline of these kinds of initiatives, things will change."

It is essential that South Africa makes up for lost time as quickly as possible. The goals of the National Development Plan cannot be achieved without the contribution of a fully effective ICT sector. The role of ICTs in development has been embraced by the leading economic successes around the world and the lessons are there to be learned. We have to achieve a paradigm shift to overcome the appalling fact that only about 10% of the students who enter the basic education process in South Africa achieve a pass in maths or science subjects (even with the low 30% pass mark hurdle).

Korea transformed itself into a knowledge economy in about 15 years, through education, R & D, investment in ICTs and coordination across government departments. We need to follow this example, to incentivise growth in the private sector, to expand the quality and relevance of higher education, applied research and collaboration between universities and industry. Investment in ICT infrastructure will lead to better service delivery, better governance and improved international links.

Closing the gap

In addition to the participative programmes from the MICT SETA and the government’s structures for education and skills development, a number of international enterprises and South African companies make their own contribution.

Cisco and CA Southern Africa operate their own skills academies to create work-ready graduates. Microsoft South Africa has trained over 8 000 students through a programme that matches the skills intervention to the needs of employers, with an 80% placement rate. MIP uses an aptitude test to select likely candidates for training in programming – with a 99% success rate. BMW launched it SAP Competence Hub in Pretoria early in 2014. Zensar Technologies’ SA Graduate Training & Learnership Programme has sent 200 IT graduates to India on 3-month learnerships since 2009. Striata partnered with Khuphulanani Training Institute in 2013 to enable learners to start a career in web development.

Excellent as these interventions are, they cannot address the fundamental need for a quantum leap in the quality and relevance of the teaching in our schools, without which South Africa will not have the solid foundation needed for its future.


[i] Gartner, “Gartner Says Worldwide Mobile Payment Transaction Value to Surpass $235 Billion in 2013”, news release, June 4 2013. http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2504915


If you would like more information or a discussion about the survey, please contact research@jcse.org.za. You can download a copy of the report by clicking on the link (above, right).

Paper Type: 
Skills Survey
Date of publication: 
Tuesday, November 18, 2014