The need to acquire information technology skills


Times have changed.

When I was still at University, my parents would go to the bank to deposit money for me. At the time, it was their only option to send me money.

But years later, things have changed. People now have many ways to deposit money. For e.g. when my parents need funds, I deposit money through my smart phone. If I am out of data, I can use my laptop at work and deposit the money in seconds.

These changes are a result of emerging technologies. While technology evolves, I can’t help but to think about how jobs are threatened by these innovations.

Ten years ago, hiring 7 tellers at a bank to do deposits and other services was part of producing excellent services to customers. However, today it’s not good for business to hire more than 4 tellers because almost everything in banking is done through the use of mobile banking.

Banks in South Africa are witnessing a radical change from normal banking to convenience banking. Today, banks are pursuing digital banking at a rapid pace.

And to answer if jobs are threatened by technological inventions, I would say the debate should be around what needs to be done to survive in a world that is evolving almost every day.

For me, realizing a need to acquire skills in the Information Technology (IT) or Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is our solution to remain employable in the banking sector.

As young people, we are exposed to many opportunities to upskill ourselves and some of these opportunities never existed 24 years ago. To date, we have bursary opportunities, learnership opportunities and internship opportunities.

I believe we need to take advantage of the wave of emerging technology that is shifting the nature of work globally by upskilling ourselves. As South Africa shifts towards digital trends it is proving to be the most important driver for innovation, competitiveness and growth. It also holds huge potential for radically changing business landscapes and shaping the nature of work.

Companies have started to build their engineering and production systems around digital technologies that drive new levels of efficiency.

The local companies are investing in creating hyper-personalised experience for customers using multiple “smart” touchpoints. This helps grow core businesses by enhancing customer engagement.

Companies are creating new business models to drive differentiated value for their clients and new revenue streams for themselves. Such companies indoctrinate an innovation mindset across the organisation, allowing every employee to contribute ideas towards enhancing customer experience.

Companies are also moving into the future, but as they do so, they carefully balance investment and resource allocation between the core business and new businesses to synchronise innovation and growth.

I therefore believe, we need digital skills which are not limited to the knowledge of using digital tools or software programs, but also to know how to apply those tools to solve real business problems.

As the 2016 survey by the Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) states, there is an increasing demand for skilled labour in the ICT sector. And there is an immediate unsatisfied need for skills in the ICT sector that is only going to get worse in the medium- and long-term.

Let us work hard to bridge the gap of required skilled labour in the ICT sector by qualifying in the ICT sector because we have seen significant innovations across business sectors – from major banks who offer a wide variety of digital services to small business owners who are marketing their products on social media. All this change requires ICT skills.

We need to instil a culture of young people that are empowered and see the need to advance themselves by being capacitated through attaining skills aligned with IT and ICT.

We need young people who are not be petrified to learn new ways of doing things in the corporate space, so that they could keep themselves relevant during any technological transformation that affects their workplace.

We also need to produce youth that is capacitated to partake actively in the era of emerging technology and a youth exposed to skills that lead to entry-level jobs in future growth areas. And this can be achieved smoothly by encouraging young South Africans into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects in schools.

We lastly require significant and sustained investment in education and training to alleviate the skills gap that needs to be filled in the ICT sector.

This can be done by ensuring young people attain qualifications that will equip them with specialised IT and leadership skills to secure employment in the country’s growing ICT industry.

Siwaphiwe Myataza, a Political Science graduate from the University of the Western Cape. Currently, a content developer at the Media and Writers Firm.