Tackling the skills shortage

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By Portia Mabaso, Technical Account Manager at Redstor

Access to IT skills will be the key to unlocking future business innovation and growth. Unfortunately, many companies in South Africa and the rest of the continent are being limited by a lack of skills.

Statistics show that 90% of children in Africa leave school without learning any basic digital skills. Addressing the IT skills shortage is therefore critical if businesses are to remain relevant in today’s digital marketplace. This is according to Redstor, a born-in-the-cloud software vendor and provider of the smarter cloud backup platform of choice for managed service providers (MSPs).

The sluggish economic growth resulting from this pervasive skills gap indirectly affects most businesses. The problem is not localised to any particular sector but felt across the entire economy. Part of this entails empowering females and individuals from underprivileged communities who are still significantly underrepresented in the IT workforce.

What is behind it?

While there is no single reason for the IT skills shortage, much of the complexities can be found in education and training. There remains a discrepancy between what traditional academic programmes teach and the IT skills that companies are looking for in the workplace. More importantly, foundational aspects of computer science education are absent in many rural schools. This presents a significant barrier to promoting diversity and inclusion in the industry.

Furthermore, the software development industry both locally and globally has often been criticised for a lack of diversity. It is as much a practical problem as it is about fairness and social justice. By limiting the talent pool, many businesses are unable to tap into the broader range of skills available.

Addressing the skills gap

In terms of vulnerability to the skills shortage, Redstor has been proactive in ensuring continuity and resilience. However, the noticeable lack of female IT talent has resulted in a concerted drive within the company to promote diversity, inclusion, and belonging. To this end, Redstor has established a Women Impact Network (WIN Tribe) to equip, assist, and support women in IT. Moreover, the company is involved with nonprofit Code Your Future (CYF) where it mentors and trains future IT talent.

The question of centralising the creation of skills is still of concern. A combination of centralised and decentralised efforts may be the best way for companies in the continent to address the IT skills shortage.

Making digital skills education accessible to everyone, embedded in everyday life, is paramount. Learning opportunities should extend beyond traditional classrooms. Through a decentralised approach, using technology, companies can reach a broader audience, ensuring inclusivity, and making learning accessible anytime, anywhere.

Partnerships between educational institutions, industry stakeholders, and community organisations can result in comprehensive digital skills ecosystems. Collaborative efforts can tailor programmes, offer mentorship, and provide practical experiences that bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world application.

Boosting gender diversity

Improving gender diversity in IT involves building awareness, encouraging excellence in STEM subjects among young girls and women, and promoting STEM education through outreach programmes. However, companies in the IT sector need to take a stance on diversity and inclusion, making a concerted effort to bridge the gender IT gap and aiding women already in the industry to grow into senior or executive positions.

Of course, the skills shortage remains a complex issue. If anything, it requires a collaborative approach between all stakeholders. But by focusing on inclusivity, diversity, and accessible education, significant strides can be taken to bridge this gap and empower more individuals to become part of the digital economy.