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Opinion: Reshoring Our Digital Skills – SA Needs Out-The-Box Thinking, And Fast

  • 4 min read

If you have heard the term ‘brain drain’, you’ll know that unemployment isn’t the only issue plaguing South Africa’s workforce economy. South Africans with globally sought after skills are emigrating by the thousands every year. This equates to around 23,000 people annually if you look at the latest Statistics South Africa migration statistics. 

With that in mind, and considering the high poverty levels, it probably comes as no surprise that, even before the pandemic hit our shores, a high percentage of digital work was off-shored due to an unfortunately large skills deficit. Combine this with rising and rampant unemployment – with youth unemployment in South Africa currently residing at a staggering 74.7%* – then we see this size of the issue but also the scope of opportunity.

South Africa’s young people are being left behind as the world is catapulted into a digital future. It is distressing that in a country with such high unemployment, companies are struggling to find talent forcing them to look abroad. On average 28,000 digital and ICT jobs are off-shored to other countries, translating to billions of lost export revenue per annum. The reason for this is multifaceted; skills shortage, capacity constraints, price sensitivity and expertise are considered top contributors. 

There is a forecasted demand of around 60 000 plus roles in the ICT sector in the coming year. Whilst most of these jobs are mainly at middle- to senior-level, many companies do not have the capacity or the resources to upskill juniors. Of the forecasted roles it is believed that more than 50% of these roles with some form of intervention and upskilling could be ideal employment opportunities for youth.

The reality is, this trend will continue unless we swiftly and effectively address the widening skills gap and empower our youth to build a future for themselves. Thus, it is critical for the public and private sector to join forces, to establish creative and collaborative solutions – and fast.

With a growing demand for ICT skills, there is an opportunity to bridge that gap and help our youth embark on a journey to success. Life Choices a non for profit organization and partner to the Momentum Metropolitan Foundation is delivering innovative solutions to address this challenge. Through a new initiative – LC Studio – allows youth the opportunity to develop their skills in web design, web application development and QA testing by working on real-world projects to develop the experience and the career direction they need to land meaningful and well-paying jobs in the booming digital marketplace. 

The LC Studio model was designed to provide quality services at competitive rates for businesses both locally and abroad. It does this by offering services to businesses in South Africa and abroad such as web design, the creation of web applications as well as QA testing services. This is managed by a portfolio of senior developers, freelancers and in some cases directly through partnered projects.

One of the ways the LC Studio does this is through a collaborative approach with the corporate sector and by plugging into the BEE Strategies. The corporate partners engage with LC Studio service offering to tailor technical service needs for their companies, LC Studio then delivers these services through upskilled youth. By doing so companies can redirect some of their offshore spend back into our economy all whilst supporting youth development and creating a potential talent pipeline that can plug into the digital skills gap. 

As we are all catapulted into the fourth industrial revolution we need to arm our youth with the skills they need in today’s job market. LC Studio provides the right skills and not only provides experience but offers the market the services it is looking for.

We also have to ensure that our graduates’ minimum needs are met so they can go out there and earn the experience that they desperately need to break into the job market. If more organisations pooled their resources and found the right partners to do this, then our country would be fast on the way to a more prosperous and hopeful future. 

The truth is, the skills gap affects us all. If we don’t come together to champion our young people and help them leap over this chasm, then businesses will continue to throw money at offshore talent. By shaping a local market with local skills, we can then grow our economy from within and build an industry that rivals that of our first-world counterparts. 

Let’s not look offshore, when we can develop the talent that lies hidden all around us. Let initiatives like LC Studio lead the way in helping corporate SA find, develop, and hire that talent.  

By Ryan Geel, Manager LC Studio