South Africa is facing a severe shortage of networking skills, amounting to an estimated shortage of 70 500 last year and swelling to 113 900 skilled people by 2009.
This is according to Peter Denny, a director of black empowered IT training company, IT Intellect, saus says a survey, conducted by IDC and sponsored by Cisco – which saw the research company interview CIO-level respondents – has pointed out some "alarming shortages in the networking field".
The report finds that the skills gap, as a proportion of demand, is expected to increase from 19,5% to 24,1% by 2009.
"When it comes to general networking technology skills – basic routing and switching – the report estimates that the actual number of skilled people needed to fill the general skills gap was around 34 000 in 2005, growing to more than 44 000 by 2009.
"According to IDC, as a proportion of total demand, these figures represent a skills gap of 15,9% in 2005 and 18,2% in 2009."
When it comes to advanced technology skills – security, wireless and IP telephony – estimates indicate that there was a shortage of more than 36 000 people in 2005 and, by 2009, this will rise to more than 69 000, representing a skills shortage gap of 30,4%.
"What is more alarming is that the respondents believe advanced technology skills will become moreimportant in the future," says Denny. "Networking technology is critical when it comes to supporting business processes – so this estimated skills shortage is a big worry for business at large."
He adds that CIOs intimated that they use networks as a key platform to share processes with important partners, suppliers and customers. In addition, asked if network communications would become more important in the future in South Africa, 95% said yes.
Corroborating the sentiments of the IDC report, Denny says: "We obviously need to train more networking candidates. But it is probably going to be necessary for us to import these skills because I do not see this skills shortfall being overcome.
"As the report suggests, it might also be necessary for the country – and companies – to try and lure back skilled South Africans who left the country for 'greener pastures'. These SA nationals are likely to return with a lot more skills than when they left.
"Whichever way you look at it, we are facing a serious predicament here."
The IDC report also suggests that the skills gap could have a serious impact on the government's ASGISA growth initiative.
The report states: "The current skills shortage may negatively influence the successful implementation of this government intitaive.
"The South African government identified a serious skills shortage and has put in place a framework to address this; the framework is now putting the necessary skills foundation in place to support economic growth.
"Skills gaps are evident not only in the area of general networking skills, but also in advanced technologies.
"A key question arises: how will a growing South Africa achieve the ASGISA objectives with an increasing skills gap?"