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ICT skills shortage set to worsen

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There are going to be at least 115 000 additional IT jobs required in the lead-up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup and South Africa needs to start planning for this shortfall now. It might already be too late, warns Peter Denny, founder and director of IT Intellect.  

Denny says the skills shortage is also going to be a serious threat to the “smooth and successful running of the world soccer cup – and the economy as a whole".
“With tens of thousands of visitors expected for the cup – and with billons of people around the world watching remotely – an additional 100 000 IT workers, straddling many technology disciplines, are going to be required. It is unlikely we are going to muster up that additional workforce in time,” says Denny.
He adds that the country is going to require additional people with PC skills, software and hardware support skills – as well as networking skills.
This is corroborated by independent research. Cisco commissioned research firm IDC to conduct a series of surveys on the demands for skills to build and operate IT networks across the Middle East and Africa.
“The report reveals that last year alone there was a shortage of skills of 75 500,” says Denny. “More importantly, these skills are highly specialised in the area of ICT – in particularly in South Africa.”
The report further warns that, by 2009, these skills will exceed supply by 24%, holding back economic growth significantly. The situation is also more extreme in “specific technology areas”. The report says that the shortfall between supply and demand in advanced networking technology skills will be 30% by 2009. The shortfall in this sector will be 69 700 people.
Cisco has also cautioned about shortfalls. Alfie Hamid, area manager at Cisco Systems, says South Africa currently boasts 32 ICT academies, which are producing only 3 133 technicians annually. He adds that the company is engaging with  the government to assist with the funding of a new academy to focus on training network professionals. It is hoped that the academy will involve universities and further education training colleges.
“Whatever figure you want to use, we are going to fall woefully short of demand for the Soccer World Cup," says Denny.
But that is not the only problem. What about day-to-day business concerns? With such a skills shortage the economy is certainly being held back. And if we are only capable of producing just over 3000 computer technicians each year, how are we going to address the ICT skills shortage – even in the medium term?
“What is interesting is that the accelerated and shared growth initiative for South Africa  (Asgisa) has highlighted six factors which are believed to be restraining growth- and one of them is the shortage of skilled labour.
“While the government has identified this problem area, we have, for many years, being losing skilled workers to overseas countries as people leave for reasons such as crime – as well as being lured by attractive pay packets. Even if we train more ICT workers, we are going to have to find a way to keep them in South Africa. One way is to pay them more competitive salaries. But there is only so much companies can afford.”