Young black males are emerging as a dominant force in SA’s IT industry, according to an IT Skills Survey conducted recently by Network IT Recruitment.

The changing demographics were in line with the country’s B-BBE policies and were hugely encouraging for the IT sector and the wider economy, says Network Recruitment MD, Niteske Marshall.

“Young white males still comprise the largest category of employees (74% of the sample), but the dynamics are changing,” Marshall says. “For example, the research found that significantly more black male respondents were under the age of 35 (86%) compared to 66% of white male respondents.”

The sample covered all areas of the IT sector including software development, network infrastructure, technical support, QA, sales and management.

“More good news is that IT staff are more educated with 37% of the sample holding an IT degree,” Marshall says. “The vast majority of black respondents (93%) as well as Indians (92%) indicated they would upgrade their skills within the next 12 months with most intending to get certified or update their certification. A significant number also said they would aim at a tertiary qualification.”

The short-term nature of jobs in the IT sector was also revealed. “Two years or less is the norm, with very few people staying for longer than four years,” Marshall says.

Sixty two per cent of respondents were considering leaving their current positions with the primary motivator being an increase in salary, followed by better career prospects, greater levels of responsibility and more flexible working solutions. Emigration remained top-of-mind, with 53% of respondents considering leaving the country, with only 26% indicating a definite “no”.

When it came to finding jobs in IT, employment agencies were by far the most common route (47% of respondents used an agency for their current job), followed by 16% (direct approach), 13% (referral by a friend or colleague) and 10% employer advertising.

“Information technology may appear to be about computers, technology and software, but the personal touch has a clear advantage when it comes to the crunch,” Marshall says.