Driving skills into the local industry

Addressing the skills shortage in the South African ICT sector should be the role of the vendors within the industry who must pull together to find a solution for what is a common problem.

The ICT sector in South Africa is in the midst of a growing skills shortage. Projections in this regard paint a bleak picture for the industry. Government has called on local role players within the sector to formulate a solution to this problem and meet local needs.

By working together in promoting skills development, technology vendors can create an improved operating environment, which in turn benefits them all.

Oracle is leading one such initiative with the e-Skills Academy, aiming to bring multiple vendors together in directly tackling the problem that affects them all.

The project has been developed with a direct and broad focus on addressing skills shortages within the sector. What makes this initiative unique in the South African market is that it is not a vendor-specific school, but one that Oracle is encouraging other players to involve themselves in.

To effectively resolve an industry-wide problem, Oracle believes that the industry at large will have to work together.

While isolated, vendor-specific initiatives will make a difference, they are somewhat limited in dealing with the broader problem of skills shortage in the context of the entire industry. Often, these vendor-specific projects also provide learning that is restricted to that vendor’s solutions. This fails to equip talent with the skills needed to work with other vendors.

It is estimated that by 2009 the demand for ICT skills in South Africa will exceed the supply being generated by the local industry by as much as 24%.

The ICT sector currently employs about 200 000 people in South Africa and Isett Seta estimates that the skills shortage in the manufacturing sector alone will lag by 14 000 ICT specialists in 2010.

Government is well aware of the situation and has given the e-Skills Academy its blessing.

The aim of the academy is not to be a replacement for current educational offerings from other professional educational institutions, but is instead intended to fill the gaps that currently exist locally. As such, the academy aims to establish leaders and entrepreneurs within the ICT industry by addressing higher-level skills development.

The academy will offer generic training and not focus on being vendor-specific. Wider conceptual training is important to effectively addressing the skills shortage. Drilling down to specifics must also occur later on, to make people more employable. Job readiness is another key focus as this is something that has been identified as a problem locally.

Universities are not mandated to tackle the job readiness of students, but the e-Skills Academy will aim to fill in the gaps in this regard for graduates. The hope is to prepare well-rounded graduates who will be ready for work in the sector in general, equipped with not only technical skills per se, but also with the general workplace skills required for a successful career.

Oracle is currently moving the project from an incubation stage into one where the academy becomes its own entity. At first the academy will be limited regionally to Gauteng, but with a view to expand nationally as soon as possible.

Dan Ellappa is country manager for Oracle University, Oracle South Africa

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