The dismaying 2009 matric results and the low numbers of students qualifying in maths can only exacerbate the shortage of information technology (IT) skills facing the corporate sector. The 2009 matric pass rate showed a drop to 60,7%. Of those who wrote mathematics, one of the ‘gateway subjects’ to a career, only 45,9% achieved more than 40%.
“With South Africa's official unemployment rate at 24,5%, according to Statistics SA, many school leavers are going to battle to find jobs,” says Sandra Burmeister, CEO of the Landelahni Recruitment Group. “However, if you are one of the few who achieved a good maths mark, information technology (IT) could be the career for you, since the sector is facing a dire shortage of skills, and is currently importing talent from countries such as India.
“Computer literacy along with data input or call-centre training will give you access to the workplace. Acquiring basic functional skills, such as general secretarial or administrative skills can also be a good starting point, Employers are looking for skilled people – even if they don't have formal job experience.
“Courses for basic functional skills are usually shorter and cheaper than university programmes, and they will make you marketable as a candidate. Just be sure you undertake the course with an accredited institution.”
IT is a good subject to study because it opens up career opportunities, she says. And it isn’t always necessary to approach companies pre-armed with a formidable list of qualifications, since most IT companies put an extremely high emphasis on on-the-job training and mentorship, as well as on short courses and vendor certification.
“Do bear in mind that it’s not only IT companies that are looking for IT skills,” says Burmeister. “Because IT is a business enabler, these skills are in high demand throughout the commercial world, particularly in the financial sector.”