SA’s skills deficit has a negative effect on employment

The recent Talent Shortage Survey found that there is a huge demand for engineers and skilled trade-workers. (Jeremy Glyn, Gallo Images)

The recent Talent Shortage Survey found that there is a huge demand for engineers and skilled trade-workers. (Jeremy Glyn, Gallo Images)

The unemployment rate in South Africa remains one of the highest in the world and over the past year it has become harder to fill positions, with the demand for engineers and skilled trade-workers at its highest.

This is according to Manpower South Africa’s tenth annual Talent Shortage Survey, released on Monday morning. Since last year, there has been a marked increase in the difficulty of filling positions, the survey found. In 2014, only 8% of South Africa employers surveyed reported difficulty in filling job vacancies, but this year, 31% of employers reported difficulty.

The survey, which sampled 750 local businesses, reported that the most difficult positions to fill this year, in order of difficulty, were: Skilled trades, engineers, management/executive staff, accounting and finance staff, sales representatives, secretaries, personal assistants, receptionists, administrative assistants and office support staff, drivers, technicians, teachers and IT personnel.

Lack of technical skills
When employers were asked why they had difficulty filling jobs, the survey found 52% of them cited environmental or market factors, 47% mentioned a lack of technical competencies or hard skills and 46% cited a lack of available applicants or no applicants at all for the position.

Thirty percent of South African employers cited the lack of industry-specific qualifications or certifications in terms of skilled trades as a challenge, while 26% mentioned a lack of candidate experience. Furthermore, 19% of employers identified organisational factors as an issue, while 15% cited industry-specific qualifications and certifications in terms of professionals as a challenge.

“South Africa’s continued skills deficit is being compounded by a lack of technical skills, which is having a negative impact on employment across many sectors of the country’s economy,” said Lyndy van den Barselaar, managing director of Manpower South Africa. “Furthermore, there is a high instance of poverty among South African youth, leaving millions unable to pursue secondary and tertiary education or training, which presents a challenge in terms of their skills development and employment prospects.”

Innovative solutions
The skills deficit has caused employers to seek new innovative ways to face the skills challenge.

“When asked what strategies they were pursuing to overcome the difficulties created by the skills shortage, 44% of South African employers said they would be adopting people practices, while 36% said they would be exploring new talent sources,” Manpower South Africa said.

“Meanwhile, 31% said they would be providing additional training and development to existing staff, while a further 29% said they would focus on developing new skills. Twenty-eight percent of employers said they were focusing on enhancing existing skills in their businesses, while 25% said they would appoint people who do not currently have the necessary skills, but have the potential to learn and grow.”

With 31% of employers reporting difficulty in filling posts, South Africa is moving closer to (but still fares better than), the global average of 38%, as determined by ManpowerGroup’s research.

“Globally, employers in Japan continue to report the greatest talent shortages, with 83% of employers struggling to fill open positions. At the other end of the scale, employers in Ireland report the least problems with talent shortages, with only 11% of employers struggling to fill jobs,” the company said.

Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn is a business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She holds a master's degree in journalism and media studies from Wits University. Her areas of interest range from energy and mining to financial services and telecommunication. When she is not poring over annual reports, Lisa can usually be found pottering about the kitchen. Read more from Lisa Steyn


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