Capitec CEO Gerrie Fourie was quoted recently as saying that the bank plans to add over 600 new employees over the next few months in roles that would include service consulting, coding and data science. He noted that Capitec has and continues to struggle in their search to find skilled employees for the roles. “It has been very challenging,” he said in an interview with BusinessTech. “If you give me 100 skilled data engineers, machine learning guys and IT professionals I would take them tomorrow.”
SA tech entrepreneur Riaz Moola says that the ICT industry is not only one of the fastest growing industries – directly creating millions of jobs – but it is also an important enabler of innovation and development in the country. “Within the technology sector, it’s now vital to reduce barriers to entry in the workplace, and the most natural way to do this is to embrace education paths outside of the norm.”
He references a recent report by professional networking site LinkedIn in which it is detailed that the importance of a three- or four-year degree in tech is declining. “There needs to be a greater focus on linking an educational offering directly with an employer’s requirements – or at the very least, the requirements of the overall sector. Rather than focussing on specific skills or programming languages, take a greater look at where the gaps exist within the vast field that is known simply as ‘coding’.
Moola states that from his experience and discussions with recruiters and organisations, the biggest gaps exist for Full Stack Web Developers, Backend Developers, Software Engineers and Devops Engineers. He points out that corporates and recruiters in South Africa tend to overlook the importance of hiring and then further guiding and coaching junior level developers. “Once the skills are in place, a junior developer is far more valuable to an organisation that has further assisted in honing their skills in the workplace.”
“Our business was set up in direct response to the disturbingly high drop-out rate at South African universities, specifically with reference to computer science degrees. Even if the candidate has made the cut for university acceptance, the likelihood is high that he or she will be a drop out statistic regardless. “It was clear to me that the tech demands from the industry were unlikely to be met and there was a desperate need for an online course for people with limited internet access – another unfortunate reality in South Africa.”
To deal with low bandwidth in South Africa, Moola developed a simple online course in Python to teach students the basics of artificial intelligence using small files, rather than the large video’s offered by many massive open online courses. From there, the business grew to offer additional streams such as Data Science, Web Development and Software Engineering. HyperionDev is now the largest online coding bootcamp in Africa.
Moola says that more than 95% of HyperionDev have reached their career outcomes, whether it be launching their own business or finding employment in their new career choice. “Organisations that we’re working with to identify gaps in employee skills include Amazon, Nedbank, Ernst & Young, IBM, Oracle and many more.”
“It’s unrealistic to rely solely on the legacy tertiary education provides to teach young South Africans the hugely in-demand tech skills – and the more we focus on guiding our youth to alternative solutions, the better for the industry and ultimately the economy as a whole.”