CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE SET UP TO DEAL WITH ICT SKILLS SHORTAGE
The Gauteng Department of e-Government and its partners are setting up ICT skills development centres to assist in dealing with the skills shortage in the sector. The Department has set its sights on stimulating the ICT economy through facilitating incubation and innovation programmes for the people of Gauteng.
In this attempt, the Department has come up with various initiatives that are specially designed to ensure that Gauteng Provincial Government staff members, residents and business people stay ahead of developments brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The Department first established the Gauteng Centre of Excellence (GCOE) in 2021, setting up the centre at 75 Fox Street, Imbumba House.
The centre is an initiative in partnership with Microsoft South Africa. Another centre will soon be opened in Orient Hills in Mogale City, where the Department has partnered with Altron Nexus in building this centre.
The centres have been set up with the aim to contribute towards digital innovation in Gauteng. Their establishment is also important because digital skills are an essential component for individuals to be able to access economic opportunities during this era, which is highly influenced by digitisation.
The Department recognises the importance of acquiring the relevant digital skills and capabilities needed in order for individuals to participate fully, effectively and equally in the digital world.
Dr. Darion Barclay, the Acting Head of Department of e-Government, says the focus of the centres on upskilling and training, provides opportunities to gain the knowledge, tools and abilities needed to use advanced technologies in the workplace, businesses and in people’s daily lives.
“Given the current digital divide within GPG, the centres seek to address one of Government’s most critical challenges, which is to build a skills base needed to drive digital transformation. This initiative will not only create a learning environment for best practice in technological development, but also embrace an approach for work readiness programmes targeting young people and to improve opportunities for SMMEs,” says Dr Barclay.
Amongst the reasons of setting up the Gauteng Department of e-Government was to deal with the changes brought about by 4IR and to bridge the technological skills gap in Gauteng. It is a known phenomenon that there is a shortage of digital skills, especially in South Africa. This initiative is set to deal with these challenges.
A study by one of the software giant’s SAP Africa, titled: “Africa’s Tech Skills Scarcity” revealed that: “There has been no improvement in SA’s chronic shortage of all types of ICT skills across almost all sectors. In fact, the ICT skills gap continues to widen, hindering the continent’s digital transformation efforts, it reveals. The most in-demand skills are those associated with the current set of emerging technologies, cyber security, data analytics, application development, software developer, project management, digital transformation, cloud integration and change management.”
The report further states that the key skills gap culprit in SA is the “recycling” of ICT skills, instead of companies investing in skills development initiatives and upskilling employees and the youth. Firms prefer hiring and rehiring when existing staff leave the company, instead of grooming new talent and investing in skills development programmes that seek to retain workers.
Dr Barclay added that the stance taken by many ICT firms is not sustainable and will result in the sector suffering from further critical skills shortages. The Government and small businesses are at a disadvantage as they cannot afford the exorbitant labour costs attached to highly skilled tech individuals.
“If you are looking for the best services in the industry you need to be willing to pay the big salaries attached to them. With the government fiscus shrinking it makes it difficult for us to afford those services. So, it is very important for us to develop these skills, and we are not only doing this for ourselves, hence we are open to creating more partnerships so we can jointly develop these skills.
“The centre of excellence is tasked with the following: equip the youth with the relevant skills to seek internship programmes within Government and the private sector, develop employees to perform better in the modernisation of GPG, and provide small, micro or medium enterprise (SMME) with the relevant training in line with the 4IR technologies. It is our firm belief that everyone should be able to live, learn, work and participate equally and fairly in the digital world,” says Barclay.
The Department has also collaborated with the University of Johannesburg, Tshwane North TVET College, Ekurhuleni TVET College, Sedibeng TVET College, Southwest Gauteng TVET College and Western College to support the ICT-based SMMEs to enhance competency compliance and efficiency.
This partnership delivers a Small Business Enrichment Programme to qualifying small businesses that register. A total of 75 previously disadvantaged ICT entrepreneurs were supported through this partnership, and 10 588 people have benefitted from ICT skills development programmes to date.
These development initiatives were achieved in the five regions of Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Sedibeng, Johannesburg and West Rand. The programmes cover 4IR advocacy and awareness, basic coding and business soft skills. Participants are also introduced to Python, a programming language.