oung people in South Africa are under a great deal of pressure to make the correct decision about what to study, with about one in three, or 36%, of young adults unemployed. So they need to make strategic decisions about the qualifications they pursue to provide the economy with muchneeded skills and guarantee themselves job security in these uncertain times.
One of the ways young people can boost their chances of finding a job is to pursue jobs on the scarce-skills list, says Sharon Snell, chief operating officer at the Insurance Sector Education and Training Authority.
The list – compiled by the department of higher education and training and which is updated regularly – tracks shifts in the demand for different kinds of work.
Because jobs on the list are scarce, there is extra investment in them, which means increased funding is made available for people training in or studying these fields, says Snell.
According to the list, engineering is the most indemand job and features seven times in the top 10.
It is considered a crucial profession because of the value it carries for economic and social development by providing infrastructure for healthcare, transportation and access to education, among other things.
Engineers build roads, hospitals, railway lines and software systems, which add value to the economy.
Other scarce skills on the list of the 100 most in-demand jobs in South Africa are found in the healthcare and financial sectors.
Apart from engineering, Snell says some of the popular jobs on the list include medical doctors, actuaries, ICT systems analysts and science technicians.
Most of the jobs require mathematics and physical science at matric level for entrance to these courses at learning institutions.
Snell says parents must devote extra time and effort to ensure their schoolgoing children have a good grasp of these two key subjects.
While mathematics and science are obviously preferred, there are several options still worth pursuing outside of these subjects, especially in trade and artisanal jobs.
Snell advises young entrepreneurs to keep up to date on the services that are needed for the economy. One example is solar technology, which is important given South Africa’s current power crisis and the need to pursue sustainable business practices.
Apart from targeting a job on the scarce-skills list, a willingness to learn is still key to unlocking a career, says entrepreneur and former information science lecturer Kobus Ehlers.
“Education is the key to the modern economy, but it’s about more than just getting a piece of paper – the world is moving faster and, if you rely only on what you are taught in a lecture theatre, you will be at a great disadvantage,” he adds.
He says jobseekers need to arm themselves with skills and knowledge beyond their fields of study or specialisation.
Ehlers says jobseekers and students need to figure out what they are good at and passionate about and work out how best to use this to add value to the world.
He says even if students are not academically inclined, there are other available options. They can start a business or learn a trade. By being aware of the problems around them and being able to find workable solutions to these – from inequality to a blue-sky idea the rest of us haven’t even thought of yet – a willingness to learn can supersede any formal qualification.
The scarce-skills list can be viewed at the higher education department’s website at dhet.gov.za