South African firms planning to use permanent hiring to address shifting skills needs


Eric van Gils

In  the latest World Economic Forum Future of Jobs 2018 report, companies across the globe were surveyed on their planned responses to, and views of, the changing world of work.

The common theme coming out of the report is the shifting skills needed over the next 5 years to be able to operate in the new world of work. A large portion of current tasks which are completed by humans will be automated and no less than 54% of employees will require significant re- and upskilling to use new technologies and work in the new ways required.

There were some interesting responses from South African companies, including their planned responses to the new skills required.

The top 3 planned responses by South African companies to the shifting skills needs included :

  1. Hire new permanent staff with skills relevant to new technologies (88% of surveyed companies)

  2. Look to automate the work (83% of surveyed companies)

  3. Hire new temporary staff with skills relevant to new technologies (75% of surveyed companies)

This creates amazing opportunities for skilled individuals in the market to secure new roles at increased salaries, but this response also raises a very important question..

Why we are not looking at re-skilling our current employees as our primary response to the changing skills need?

The first two responses above align with the global standard responses. The global 3rd response is to Retrain current employees.

South Africa’s unemployment problems are not going away and as the skills needed by companies shift we risk an increase in the gap between the skills required and the skills our people have.

We need to look at a large scale upskilling for our current employees, and then also the unemployed in our communities. Another clear message the WEF survey gives is the fact that companies place massive value on the skills in a location when they are deciding on a new location for their business. If our people have the right skills then South Africa’s appeal as an investment destination increases.

The focus we as a country give to this upskilling going forward could dramatically improve South Africa’s profile as an investment destination and also go a long way in supporting our nation's current goal of reducing unemployment.

Further reading :