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Musa Phungula, TechTeleDataMusa Phungula, TechTeleData

There is no question that our industry is hampered by a skills shortage in the deep ICT skills set that drives innovation and makes what most think is impossible, possible. But I am an optimist and believe that with a little bit of passion, time investment, and willingness to engage with our young people, we can turn our industry around. It won’t happen overnight, but it is also never too late to start.

It isn’t just about a lack of take-up of subjects like maths and science at school, but perhaps also a lack of understanding of the roles that are available, and the skills required to excel in the ICT industry.

I believe we should not only be focusing our efforts on educating and engaging learners as they enter university, or look to join the workforce once qualified, but rather inspire them at school.

Learners who, in grade 10, are thinking about subject and career choices, should be encouraged to identify opportunities to shadow professionals across the multiple industries – this, I believe, is the domain of the schools and the life-orientation programme.

The next part is up to us. As ICT professionals, we should be working towards making ourselves available to young people – through job shadowing, mentorship or informal discussions – the breadth of our industry. It is up to us to encourage them to actively pursue a career in an applicable engineering, software development or science discipline.

It is about investing our time and considerable knowledge to show young people what the job entails and how what we do shapes the way in which the world is changing. It is, in my opinion, a critical necessity for the future of building and maintaining a thriving ICT knowledge economy.

But, as they say, it takes a village to raise a child – and this is equally applicable in the fi ght to create a thriving ICT skills pipeline. It is why I urge other start-ups, small and large local and multinational companies, to take up the opportunity to launch a job shadowing or youth mentorship programme, and in so doing, become a contributor to the ICT industry of the future.

And finally, we should collectively stop thinking of this as a one-day-a-year campaign – it should be an every-day-of-theyear endeavour that will define the future of the ICT industry in our country.

About the author: Musa Phungula is MD of TechTeleData.