Opinion: SA Firms Must Grow Their Own Talent, Not Steal From Competitors

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Written by Staff

From TheMediaOnline. Story by Jarred Cinman, co-founder of South African digital agency Native.

The South African technology industry is suffering from a profound lack of skilled people. In the development of startup technology, the problem is even more severe.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report measures the preparedness of an economy to use information communication technology to boost competitiveness and well-being. It ranked Europe as the leader in the use of ICTs to transform the economy and society. South Africa was placed 70th. Mauritius, the top-ranked African country, was in 55th position.

In South Africa we find ourselves at an uncomfortable intersection. On the one side of the playing field is a relatively well-funded corporate world with world-class aspirations. This means that South Africa feels able to compete on even terms with anyone, anywhere.

On the other side is an educational system – primary, secondary and tertiary, and a corporate training environment – that is mostly terrible. We have not kept up with the rising demand for what Google calls “smart creatives” — programmers, strategists, creatives, user experience designers.

It is not only education that is the problem. This industry is struggling to retain skills. As a country we are struggling to keep the best people here.

Because there are relatively few skilled people, and comparatively many jobs, we all experience high staff churn. Ironically, the better your business, the more likely your people are to leave – because the more likely they are to be sought after by competitors.

We have the power to change this.

Those of you who are parents can start by ensuring your children understand the value and importance of mastery, rather than simply the relationship between work and material gain. The best people I employ are not the best educated, but the ones raised right.

Every one of us can get out there and contribute to raising awareness about digital and technology careers among young people. There are many outreach programmes, mentorship opportunities and other ways for those of us who know what the need looks like to help educate the next generation.

Formalise teaching in our businesses. We need to break with traditional slow classroom learning models and build new ones that allow people to grow quickly. This has the dual effect of engaging young people and improving the standard of our work. It also means lower income earners can do more, staving off the need to keep poaching more senior people from competitors.

We should all stop focusing as much on how we’re going to persuade talent away from our competitors, and start focusing on how we’re going to grow talent of our own. When we do that, greatness will follow.

Read more at TheMediaOnline.