Not-new news and scary statistics

Shocking statistics about student failure - silhouette of falling man on a downward curved arrow

Banal: devoid of freshness; so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring.

Last week ITWeb run an article entitled “Skills dearth a chokehold on SA’s ‘vibrant’ ICT sector”. The article reported on the South Africa ICT Talent Development White Paper.

I took the time to read the 67-page white paper. To be honest, there wasn’t much that was new. We know that South Africa needs more ICT talent. We know that new graduates do not have the required skills. We know there are infrastructure challenges, like Eskom.

It’s banal – but unfortunately it’s still true.

There were some interesting findings in the white paper that aren’t covered in the ITWeb article. One statistic, in particular, shocked me.

The shocking statistic

The success rate for Science, Engineering and Technology courses at universities is dismal.

In 2020, only 20.2% of those enrolled at university in these programs actually graduated. That’s according to DHET statistics quoted in the report.

The report suggests some reasons for this that, again, we already know:

  • Limited career guidance.
  • Little support for students who need extra help.
  • Challenges about the “relevance of materials”.

A reliable source told me that universities of technology must accept (almost) all students to qualify for government funding. Programming needs a certain aptitude. If you combine poor career guidance with poor selection criteria, you set students up to fail. And you waste an awful amount of money.

When people contact me about learning to program, the first thing I ask is: “Why do you want to be a programmer?” The answers are not always sensible.

Years ago I heard a university professor talk about the increasing irrelevance of universities. This report mentions the “perceived lack of value” of university degrees. Add this to the failure rate and … I don’t know.

I do wonder why HR still insists on a degree in job adverts.

Corporate trends

According to the report, two organisational trends have increased from 2018 to 2020:

  • 100% of companies now say that they need to reskill existing employees. (Reskilling is learning new skills to do a different job. Upskilling is learning new skills to do the same job in a different way.)

  • 64% of companies plan “strategic redundancies” of staff who lack the skills to use new technologies.

I thought that an increase in reskilling would reduce the need for retrenchment. Are some people not worth reskilling? Or is reskilling more theory than practice?

I have nothing to say

Apparently MICT SETA has developed several certifications to address ICT skills gaps.

It’s a rule in polite society that, if you can’t say something nice about someone, you should not say anything at all. I’m not saying anything about MICT.

Help me understand

Job titles are often vague.

The report lists the top 26 ICT jobs roles that are in demand in South Africa. In the software development discpline, they include the following as two different jobs:

  • Software developer
  • Developer programmer

I don’t understand the real difference. tries (and fails) to explain by stating that developers have a broader scope of work that programmers.

I would love to hear your comments on any or all of these thoughts.

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