30 in-demand jobs in South Africa – and the post-Covid skills companies are looking for

 ·25 Apr 2021

Professional recruitment group Michael Page published a report on the prevailing hiring trends for 2021, showing which professional jobs and skills are in high demand across various sectors.

The report was developed as a guideline for hiring managers and job seekers in South Africa, focusing on disciplines in engineering, finance, human resources, technology and sales, among others.

Paul Newman, operating director for Page Group South Africa, noted that the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 caused a major shift in the types of skillsets and positions in demand in the market, with a notable change towards working from home.

“It is undeniable that an increase in homeworking will be one long-term legacy of the pandemic. It will be interesting to see how employers tackle the challenges of managing a blended workforce, and how the role of offices will evolve,” he said.

A survey in the latter months of 2020 by the group showed that as many as 74% of workers in professional fields had moved to a remote working setup – though the vast majority were working within normal hours, not adopting flexible work days.

This type of work style had a largely positive impact on productivity, motivation and work satisfaction, the group said. However, different sectors face different challenges in this regard.

As part of its report, Michael Page pinpointed five in-demand job positions in each sector it covers, highlighting the key skills required in a ‘post-Covid’ landscape, as well as an over-arching challenge faced by the segment.

Engineering and Manufacturing

  1. Operations Manager
  2. Manufacturing Manager
  3. Project Manager
  4. Maintenance Manager
  5. Continuous Improvement Manager

Among engineers and manufacturers, positions require specific qualifications and training to fill positions. Because of this there is a very limited pool of talent that actually qualify, making it an extremely competitive market, Michael Page said.

In some cases, this causes a big disparity in salaries. The group said that professionals looking for work in this field need to pursue these qualifications, as they will open doors – with even basic qualifications leading to potential on-the-job and further training.

The key skills being sought after here are:

  • Project management – experience which helps with timely execution of projects and managing various skills on the team;
  • Continuous improvement – experience which helps a business maintain a competitive advantage in changing times, as well as saving costs and supporting operations;
  • Maintenance methodologies –  experience in keeping machinery and equipment in the best condition, and being proactive in mitigating breakdowns.

Finance and Accounting

  1. Commercial Finance Manager / Controller
  2. Tax
  3. Finance Manager
  4. Head of Finance
  5. Accountant

Michael Page noted two big challenges in the finance and accounting fields in South Africa: a push by local firms to downsize teams, or to move their functions and services overseas, as well as not having the innovative thinking or necessary skills to deal with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here, it said that having multiple skills, or being able to serve in multiple roles would help in keeping a place in smaller teams.

The key skills being sought after include:

  • Financial planning and analysis – experience in full planning and analysis of the market or competitors;
  • Change management – experience in dealing with rapid changes, particularly in light of Covid-19 and new strategies and approaching being needed;
  • Technical accounting – experience in adhering to strict and accurate financial processes.

Human Resources

  1. HR Manager
  2. HR Officer
  3. HR Director
  4. In-house Talent Acquisition Specialist
  5. HR and Payroll Manager

The biggest issues in HR, Michael Page said, is that companies are facing considerable budget constraints, which mean smaller teams and fewer people on staff. Additionally, with work from home conditions over lockdown, many employees are seeking flexible work hours – which is in conflict with traditional working methods. As a result, employees may look elsewhere for positions that can better meet their needs.

The solution here is for both employees and employers to play their part, the group said. Employees need in experience in multiple roles, and can earn better salaries for it, saving the company from hiring two or three people for the job – and employers can adopt more flexible working conditions to attract the right skills. As long as productivity and output measures are in place.

Key skills being looked for in this segment include:

  • Generalist HR experience – companies have limited resources and can get more out of a generalist HR approach;
  • Union and IR experience – unions have been aggressive in negotiations, given the salary and wage constraints of 2020;
  • Business partner skills – having experience in working closely with executive teams.

Procurement and Supply Chain

  1. Planning Manager
  2. Head of Supply Chain
  3. Continuous Improvement Manager Supply Chain
  4. Procurement Manager
  5. Logistics Manager (Regional / International Scope)

Within the procurement and supply chain segment, there has been a growing need for skills during the pandemic – however, companies have had to reduce staff due to budget constraints. Thus they do not have the necessary allowances for the skills they need, Michael Page said.

This could provide a bigger opportunity for temp workers, it said, where those who are willing to work on a contract basis could thrive.

Vital skills in this field are:

  • Continuous improvement –  supply chains have been at the forefront during the pandemic, so continuous improvement to processes and efficiency are now core to the business;
  • Data analytics – data will be driving more procurement and supply chain decisions during disruptive times, and will help companies manage risks;
  • Adaptability – the pandemic brought drastic changes, and will continue to change things. People can adapt quickly to these changes are highly sought-after.

Sales and Marketing

  1. Technical Sales Manager
  2. Digital Marketing Manager
  3. E-commerce Manager
  4. Regional Key Account Manager
  5. Head of Sales and Marketing

The biggest challenges facing marketing and sales teams are a lack of skills in e-commerce, as well as a move towards more niche or specialist recruitment – either for specific regions or specific items.

Michael Page says that employees need to upskill themselves to be tech-savvy as quickly as possible, and to take on as many projects as possible to keep themselves relevant.

Key skills being sought-after include:

  • Adaptability – traditional sales and marketing roles are shifting: companies are amalgamating various roles, so being able to adapt and learn additional skills is vital;
  • Curiosity – this is a drive to be more proactive in tackling the market;
  • Localisation – previous ‘regional’ strategies in marketing and sales are evolving to become more localised. Understanding local markets is becoming a key tool for these positions.


  1. Cloud Computing
  2. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  3. Data Scientist
  4. Robotics and Process Automation
  5. Cybersecurity

According to Michael Page, the big problem in this field is simple: there are not enough people with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills. Unfortunately, the solution lies in a complete shift in South Africa’s educational landscape.

In-demand skillsets here include:

  • Cloud computing – with the work from home model, there is a growing demand for remote working solutions, as well as those clued up with cloud services and platforms like AWS, Azure, DevOps, Docker and Kubernetes;
  • Data analysis and insights – companies want more than just big data, they want to know the insights and how to apply them. The commercialisation of data and using data to underpin decisions is quickly becoming key;
  • Cyber security – working from home, cloud networks are becoming security targets, making effective cyber security more important than ever before.

Read: These jobs are in-demand in South Africa – and can pay starters as much as R650,000 a year

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