Prof Andre Calitz

With a skills shortage of between 20,000 and 70,000 high-end ICT professionals in South Africa alone, business and education must work together to close the gap, say stakeholders.

Speaking at a media round table in Johannesburg, South Africa, on the sidelines of the  SYSPRO Africa 2013 User Conference, Professor Andre Calitz of the Department of Computing Sciences at South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) Department of Computing Sciences, said computing sciences honours graduates from NMMU were being flooded with job offers as industry sought scarce skills.

Meryl MalcomessNMMU and Syspro are collaborating to address skills shortages in the business process management and ERP space through focused courses and the use of mobile and new technologies to deliver training across Africa. The partnership has also resulted in the introduction of a new BCom Information Systems degree programme.

Prof Calitz said: “The ICT skills shortage in South Africa, specifically in the ERP field, is of national concern and industry is increasingly relying on tertiary institutions to address this skills crisis.” While industry has indicated growing ERP skills requirements, a limited number of tertiary institutions are offering education in the ERP field, he says.

Dr Brenda Scholtz of NMMU noted that the skills shortage did not cut across all levels of ICT, however. “The shortage is mainly in development, business intelligence, BPO, data analytics, testing and quality assurance, and enterprise architecture,” she said.

Meryl Malcomess, Marketing Director at SYSPRO Africa, noted that as an ERP player, SYSPRO believed strongly in the need to develop ERP skills across the continent. “Thanks to mobile, you now see small business people and farmers able to become viable players within the larger supply chain.” However, without ERP skills, the benefits would not be fully realised, she said.

James MugeniAlso speaking at the round table, James Mugeni of  SABMiller plc subsidiary company and Syspro ERP customer Southern Sudan Beverages, said while ICT entrepreneurs were slow to emerge in Southern Sudan, skilled ICT professionals were returning to the country. Prof Calitz said several countries were seeing ICT academics and highly skilled professionals returning, but that the overall levels of technical and soft skills needed across the continent were not sufficient to meet demand.

SYSPRO’s collaboration with NMMU is in line with a growing need for enterprise to play a role in skills development and assisting tertiary institutions in delivering to market graduates with the relevant skills.

Noting the growing importance of mobile, Prof Calitz says he believes mobile apps can play a key role in delivering ICT learning and generating interest in careers in ICT. “By combining the lack of ICT skills, the massive global usage of the Internet and web portals, and mobile development, we can see that there has become a need for a mobile ICT career app. Currently, career apps tend to focus on recruitment, rather than education and career guidance. School children and students are not given enough ICT qualification information and career guidance and a possible way to get around this issue is to create ICT awareness amongst scholars and students using mobile apps.”

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