Filling the skills gap by improving digital skills

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Filling the skills gap by improving digital skills

Technology has been on the fast rise in the workforce since the beginning of the 21st century. Speculations of machines taking over human labour have been a topic forever, and we are currently seeing these rumours coming true. This phenomenon is called Technology Unemployment. Technological unemployment is the loss of jobs caused by technological change, and it is a crucial type of structural unemployment.


It’s not news that the unemployment rate in South Africa and the rest of the world is increasing, despite the recent decrease in the unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2022.

According to Statistics of South Africa, the number of unemployed persons increased by 278 000 to 7,9 million compared to Q3: 2021, resulting in an increase of 540 000 (up by 2,5%) in the number of people in the labour force.

It is time for Human resource management to strategise a technology vs labour plan and transform the human capital into a digital workplace without laying staff off.


But how?

Filling the skills gap by improving digital skills

Until the underprivileged workforce gets equal access to technology and education for re-skilling, the technology skills gap will grow. Success depends on the whole country, from the privileged to the lower-income, to get trained and transformed into a new set of digital skills.


The government is currently working on a programme to ensure that education and training programmes are directly linked to the jobs needed in South Africa, says President Cyril Ramaphosa. Although this addresses youth development (ages 7-12), it does not address our current technology skills gap; therefore, technology transformation is addressed through new and upcoming learnerships standardised by the SETA or QCTO.

Rudi Mdima, business development and relationships manager at HyperionDev, mentioned that learnerships address unemployment and the country’s skills shortage. “We understand that exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and Great Resignation; many industries rely on coding and highly skilled tech talent now more than ever to remain competitive in the digital age. Yet, these very skills are so scarce in South Africa.”


Learnership and internships in technology-based positions will address the unemployment rate amongst the youth and, at the same time, fill the digital skills gap.


What are Digital Skills

Salesforce defines digital skills as the skills needed to “use digital devices, communication applications, and networks to access and manage information,” from basic online searching and emailing to specialist programming and development.


The best part of the current technology advancement transformation is that you do not have to be limited to an area, for normalising e-commerce and hybrid workplace have added flexibility, possibly making the skills gap smaller.


Digital Skills Needed

The most challenging skill vacancy to fill in South Africa are software developers, computer network technicians, developer programmers and computer network and systems engineers, according to Wits University’s 2021 ICT Skills Survey. The most in-demand skills listed by employers are cybersecurity, big data and analytics, DevOps, and artificial intelligence.


A crucial part of digital transformation in the workplace must include:

  • Differentiating between everyday and workplace digital skills.
  • Preparing the workforce for new jobs.
  • Strengthening current skills.


Technology skills needed can be divided into two categories.


Entry-level digital skills can include:

  • Computer literacy
  • Data entry
  • Social media
  • Web-based communications and research
  • Word processing
  • Email and chat
  • Secure information processing

Advanced digital skills can include:

  • Programming, web and app development, coding
  • Digital business analysis
  • Digital marketing and content creation
  • Digital design and data visualisation
  • Digital product management
  • Data science
  • User experience design
  • AI development
  • Encryption and cybersecurity skills,
  • E-commerce and digital trade skills


Businesses should start developing a digital readiness strategy which you can implement now to address future challenges. The Human resource department should:

  • Audit current skills
  • Address the skills gap needed for the future
  • Developing skills for a hybrid work setting
  • Take action on developing skills through continuous training and learnerships


Companies now need to recognise the importance of addressing the digital skills gap to ensure sustainability for the future and prosperity. It is time that we all work together to grow a more robust South African workforce to drive a stronger economy.








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