Shortage of skilled workers in South Africa

 ·19 May 2015

Skilled trades and engineers remain the most difficult positions for companies to fill, according to ManpowerGroup’s tenth annual Talent Shortage Survey.

The survey is conducted annually, using a sample of 750 businesses in South Africa.

“With unemployment in the country remaining high, it is surprising that employers continue to have difficulty filling positions. South Africa’s continued skills deficit is being compounded by a lack of technical skills, which is having a negative impact on employment across many sectors of the country’s economy,” explained Lyndy van den Barselaar, managing director of Manpower South Africa.

“Furthermore, there is a high instance of poverty among South African youth, leaving millions unable to pursue secondary and tertiary education or training, which presents a challenge in terms of their skills development and employment prospects.”

In 2014, when compared to the 41 other countries surveyed, South Africa came in 4th from the bottom, with only 8% of employers reporting difficulty filling jobs.

This year, the country has come in at 30th place, with 31% of employers reporting difficulty filling jobs – close on the global average of 38%.

Globally, employers in Japan continue to report the greatest talent shortages, with 83% of employers struggling to fill open positions. At the other end of the scale, employers in Ireland report the least problems with talent shortages, with only 11% of employers struggling to fill jobs.

South African employers were asked how much difficulty they are having filling jobs compared to this time last year, to which 75% said they were experiencing similar difficulty, 16% said they were experiencing less difficulty, and 6% said they were experiencing more difficulty.

When asked why they are having difficulties filling jobs, 52% of local employers cited environmental or market factors, 47% cited a lack of technical competencies or hard skills and 46% cited a lack of available applicants or no applicants at all for the position.

Further, 30% of South African employers cited the lack of industry-specific qualifications or certifications in terms of skilled trades as a challenge, while 26% cited a lack of candidate experience.

Further, 19% of employers identified organisational factors as an issue, while 15% cited industry-specific qualifications and certifications in terms of professionals as a challenge.

When asked what kind of impact the talent shortage was having on their availability to meet clients’ needs, 22% of South African employers said a high impact, 46% said a medium impact, 21% said a low impact and 10% said no impact at all.

When asked how talent shortages and skills gaps were most likely to impact their organisations, 68% of local employers said it would reduce their ability to serve their clients, 58% said it would reduce their productivity and competitiveness and 57% said it was likely to result in higher compensation costs.

Further, 49% cited reduced innovation and creativity while 46% cited lower employee engagement or morale and 44% said it was likely to result in higher employee turnover.

Skills deficits

“Owing to the effects the skills deficits are having across industries, organisations are having to find new and innovative ways to face the challenge, in order to minimise the negative effects on their businesses,” said van den Barselaar.

When asked what strategies they were pursuing to overcome the difficulties created by the skills shortage, 44% of South African employers said they would be adopting people practices, while 36% said they would be exploring new talent sources.

Meanwhile, 31% said they would be providing additional training and development to existing staff, while a further 29% said they would focus on developing new skills.

About 28% of employers said they were focusing on enhancing existing skills within the organisation, while 25% said they would appoint people who do not currently have the necessary skills, but have potential to learn and grow.

“In order to effectively tackle the skills deficit, it is imperative that provincial government, together with the public and private sectors, continue to support skills training and development,” said Van den Barselaar.

“This is not only important for those wanting to enter the job market, but also for existing employees, as technology in the workplace is rapidly evolving and requires all employees to constantly up-skill.”

Global needs

The research shows that globally, the roles most difficult to fill are skilled trade workers, sales representatives and engineers – almost unchanged from the 2013 and 2014 surveys, where sales representatives were ranked 3rd and engineers ranked 2nd.

Vacancies for skilled trade workers continue to be the most difficult position to fill, for the fourth consecutive year.

In fourth place, moving down one position, are technicians, while drivers are in 5th place from 10th place last year. The management and executives category is in sixth place, followed by accounting and finance staff.

Secretaries, PAs, administrative assistants and office support staff come in at 8th place, followed by IT staff in 9th place.

The production and machine operators category in 10th place enters the top 10 list this year, moving up from 12th place in 2014 and replacing the sales manager category which slips out of the top ten.


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