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Tuition Fees is not the biggest challenge to ICT skills in South Africa report unearths

by Milicent Atieno

According to 2017, Johannesburg Center for Software Engineering (JCSW) Skills survey. The lack of ICT skills in South Africa has more to do with lack of youths’ interest in the sector and growing dependence on corporate sponsorship than the cost of acquiring the training.

The survey had 300 respondents, 53% of whom said they preferred offsite learning. That includes online learning, which further drives down the cost of obtaining ICT training. Admittedly, these days there various means of acquiring ICT training that have immensely driven down the cost barriers.

I think the fees must fall (campaign) is really a diversion. It is important that education must be affordable, it’s absolutely vital that it is affordable and we should make sure that not one single cent is wasted in delivering the best quality education, but education isn’t free,” said Andrian Schofield, Manager of the Applied Research Unit at the JCSE.

The model of students paying for at least some of their education is accepted globally. Of more importance are full with students studying every subject under the Sun but not enough of them are asking to study ICT related subjects and that comes from the way we encourage them at a young age and it has got nothing to do with the fees they might have to pay when they get to university.”

Schofield went further to commend the initiatives by the private sector to bridge the skills gaps, praising them for doing so much in driving down the cost of learners training in ICT.

At the higher level skills, you have to take people in small numbers. A BCX Data Science Academy is pitched at a high level of knowledge and you can’t bring in thousands of people to study that – you have to bring in ten, twenty or thirty. It is the same with the other initiatives. They are taking people in small numbers but when you look at the total number of people practicing those skills in this country, they will make a reasonable contribution to the skills available. In contrast, if Google can put an interest in digital skills to hundreds of thousands of young people – those people will take it and develop it into something useful.”

The Managing Director of Networks Unlimited, Anton Jacobz, says more has to be done to encourage the youth to get interested in ICT.

As well as looking to short-term solutions by supporting employees in-house through internships, mentoring and online learning opportunities, we also need to look at our school curriculum. Here, we need to think longer-term, by starting to train learners at school level already. If we do not address the need for ICT training in schools, the cyber skills shortage today is only going to get worse into the future.”

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