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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

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