The IT skills in demand in South Africa

Demand for tech skills has declined significantly in past three years, industry experts say. However, that doesn’t mean hiring top IT talent has got any easier.

“With news of layoffs and the decrease in the number of tech jobs, one might think that tech hiring should have become easier. The reality is that it’s not,” OfferZen co-founder Philip Joubert told TechCentral. “Companies are struggling to find the right fit – hiring has not become easier, it’s just difficult in a different way.”

Among the issues making the hiring process more complex for employers is the large number of applications for tech roles, which has multiplied in recent years, Joubert said. Many companies outsource their recruitment function to external specialists over which they have no operational control. The prospective employers then raise the standard of their recruiting methods in search of a better fit but don’t easily see positive outcomes because “recruiters are overworked and understaffed”.

Adding to the complexity is the tough economic climate, which has driven a shift towards a more conservative outlook from business. OfferZen data shows that companies are less eager to take on junior developers, preferring more senior staff. Stiff competition for these skills makes it difficult for firms to secure a preferred candidate once they have found them. “Despite the economic climate, most intermediate and senior developers received between two and five offers in their last job search,” said Joubert.

Data from CareerJunction’s Employment Insights report, which tracks job ads by sector on the platform, supports the notion that the IT sector no longer leads in demand for talent. Although IT had the most advertisements placed on the platform between 2019 and mid-2021 – including through the Covid pandemic – the sector was displaced from its top spot by ads for business management and finance roles.

Still in demand

The CareerJunction report notes, however, that the decline in demand for IT skills comes from a high base – and remains elevated. In particular, software developer roles were the second most desired skills of any sector during 2023.

“Software developers have been one of the most in-demand professions globally over the last decade. Although demand for IT professionals including software developers decreased over the last three years, their skills remain top in demand,” said the report.

Read: There’s more to the skills crisis than emigration

CareerJunction lists systems administrators, data professionals and business analysts as highly sought after. OfferZen, on the other hand, said that demand for full-stack developers and C# programmers were particularly high.

Another good barometer for skills in high demand – so much so that they are deemed “critical” to the national economy – is the “critical skills list” managed by the department of home affairs. In its latest version of the list, released in October 2023, the following tech skills were deemed to be highly sought after (job role described by the department):

  • CIO
  • Data management manager (sic)
  • ICT systems analyst
  • Data scientist
  • Software developer
  • Programmer analyst
  • Developer programmer (sic)
  • Applications programmer
  • Computer quality assurance analyst
  • Computer network and systems engineer
  • Network analyst
  • ICT security specialist

Given how important developer skills are to the economy, improving the pipeline of talent is key to bridging the skills gap. Universities, however, do not have the capacity to handle all the demand on their own. On the other hand, not all aspiring technologists have the means to pursue their vocation via an institution of higher learning.

OfferZen data shows that although university graduates make up the bulk of ICT professionals, more and more self-taught developers are entering the field. While there may be minor differences in earnings at different points in their careers, in the long term, self-taught developers tend to earn similar amounts to their degreed counterparts.

“Software developers don’t have to get a degree to have a good career. Around one in four developers are self-taught, and our State of the Developer Nation report from 2019 found that a lack of a degree also doesn’t affect a software developer’s earnings potential. What does matter is that aspiring software developers showcase their coding skills through things like personal projects and contributions to open-source projects,” Joubert said.  – © 2024 NewsCental Media

Get breaking news alerts from TechCentral on WhatsApp