As Cisco Networking Academy instructors gather for the annual Southern Africa Conference for the Cisco Networking Academy in Durban (26 & 27 May 2015), Cisco stresses that governments urgently need to deploy policy and training programmes to help solve the world’s fastest-growing gap in networking professionals.

The global shortage of skilled IP networking professionals will be at least 1,2-million people in 2015, according to INSEAD Business School’s Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2014 co-authored by Cisco. Specifically looking at South Africa, Cisco estimates that 30 000 to 70 000 skilled information technology workers are needed, however tertiary institutions are not producing enough ICT graduates to meet this demand.

According to the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index, Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast: 2014-2019 forecast, mobile data traffic is expected to grow 11-fold over the next five years in South Africa, which is a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 63 percent – two times faster than expected fixed IP traffic growth. This highlights that connectivity is accelerating at a fast pace in the country therefore creating a growing need for skilled ICT professionals.

The lack of young ICT professionals is not limited to just South Africa – increased connectivity, the Internet of Everything, rising digitisation of all business activity, globalisation of trade and travel, and economic growth globally has created the same problem in a number of countries globally.

“Specific programmes and targeted policies are needed to expand the total pool of qualified people in South Africa, as well as globally. More effort is particularly needed to expand the pool of qualified networking talent by: 1) increasing the number of new Networking employees (graduates); 2) encouraging and enabling mid-career professionals to transition to ICT and Networking; and 3) increasing a country’s total talent by encouraging immigration. These are also some of the topics we will be discussing at our Annual Southern Africa conference for the Cisco Networking Academy,” says Alfie Hamid, regional manager Cisco Systems: Corporate Affairs Sub-Saharan Africa.

The policies and programmes created to achieve these results should:
* Integrate more technology training into educational curriculum. Expand efforts to increase the number of trained ICT professionals from universities, vocational programmes and technical training centres, particularly by integrating elements of computer science (CS) and IP networking into general education curricula at the primary and secondary levels.
* Increase mentorship opportunities. Mentoring students provides opportunities to experience and learn about careers in technology related fields.
* Reduce limits on the number of temporary and immigrant visas for skilled workers. Current immigration policies directly impact the immediate supply of skilled networking employees.
* Implement successful technical training programmes, particularly through public private partnerships. Tailored training programmes can accelerate the number of skilled networking employees that enter the global workforce. Cisco’s own Networking Academy Program prepares students for entry-level ICT jobs through the PPP model. To date, it has trained over five million students globally and over 34 000 in South Africa.

“The ongoing adoption of more powerful mobile devices and wider deployments of emerging M2M applications, combined with broader access to faster wireless networks, will be key contributors to significant mobile traffic growth in South Africa and the rest of the world in the coming years. Whilst this phenomenal growth highlights the presence of the IP networking gap, with dedicated public policy, specific training programmes, and public involvement on the part of governments, citizens and private enterprise, we can solve the talent gap,” Hamid concludes.