ICT Skills development in SA

Information Communication Technology (ICT) skills development is still a ‘hot topic’ in South Africa with many companies struggling to find the appropriate skills to match their requirements

June 30, 2010

Information Communication Technology (ICT) skills development is still a ‘hot topic’ in South Africa with many companies struggling to find the appropriate skills to match their requirements.  This ongoing quest has propelled corporate South Africa to look towards skills development programmes, internships and lucrative offers to highly qualified and experienced individuals in order to gain and retain skills within specialist areas of ICT. Jaroslav Cerny, CEO at RDB Consulting, an ICT outsource and consulting company, believes that looking for individuals that have the right aptitude and attitude is often more important than a candidate that fits the ‘skills’ profile.

He says, “There are many programmes for graduates that strive to augment the necessary academic training with real life, practical skills in order to develop staff to gain the necessary skills and be integrated into an ICT support or maintenance environment. However, it is more than often necessary to also review their inherent talents and propensity to excel within an ICT technical environment; and whether they have the correct temperament for this type of environment.”

“Take outsourcing for example – the candidate must be able to not only interact professionally with the client but should also have a personality type and traits that are geared towards delivering a service.  The ability to problem-solve and react on the fly also adds to the quality of work delivered by the candidate and most importantly, results in customer satisfaction.  In addition, the candidate must have the right ‘customer facing’ attitude whereby they are proactive, tasks are handled promptly and feedback is given in a professional manner that reflects service excellence.

This might sound simplistic, but in order to engage with potential staff that reflect the desired qualities rather than a focus on their ‘learned skills’; it is imperative to conduct an assessment. This assessment should assist in establishing whether candidates ultimately suit the job description, fit the personality profile required for the job and company culture, and have the potential to grow into an ICT technical position.

Cerny believes that psychometric testing should be a standard procedure when employing staff, particularly within the field of ICT. This provides a ‘suitability’ framework for the employer that will identify whether the individual is indeed suitable for the job – from more than just a technical perspective. In fact, one of Cerny’s ‘stars’ — Eugene Grove — at RDB Consulting joined the organisation just over 18 months ago and despite his lack of previous technical and ICT experience, has become a valued member of staff that has progressed with the necessary training and coaching from a trainee engineer to a junior engineer, and finally to a consultant who is now providing a service to RDB Consulting’s top clients with favourable feedback.

Grove was given the opportunity to work for RDB Consulting after he was tasked with studies that would help him become familiar with database technology and thereafter wrote a test. Milestones were set up and he was mentored to successfully pass these challenges.  He demonstrated initiative and the results were outstanding.

Cerny adds, “Eugene’s progress has been phenomenal and he has advanced far more quickly than some staff that have technical qualifications. This proves the theory that aptitude and attitude is a crucial component when choosing an employee.”

Psychometric testing has gained traction as an employment tool that helps to determine a candidate’s aptitude for a specific role, without relying only on their qualifications.

Dr Caren Scheepers of I.R.O.D.O Consulting says that psychometric testing can be used to derive different sorts of information about the candidate, all of which should be viewed in conjunction with an interview and task assessment. These include the Cognitive Potential Profile (CPP), used to identify cognitive potential and thinking styles; the overall potential of a person; Emotional Intelligence  (EQ); Personality Types (MBTI); and ‘ideal  team role’, using the Belbin Tool, which works to identify the preferred team role out of eight roles (such as monitor, shaper, evaluator) for the candidate.

Notes Scheepers: “Assessments are invaluable in ensuring an appropriate fit between the individual, the organisational culture and the level of the job.

For example, a candidate showing very high cognitive potential might soon lack stimulation if placed in a desktop support role, which is better suited to a ‘rule-follower’ personality. An IT technician might excel in terms of cognitive potential, but have a weak EQ, so would not be suitable for a position that would necessitate frequent client meetings. At the same time, it must also be understood that various types of personalities can excel in the IT field; and that because people are multi-dimensional, one can’t view the different sorts of assessments in isolation.”

So rather than exclusively looking at the appropriate qualification/s when selecting an ICT employee, Cerny believes having an eye on the personality and aptitude of the candidate can result in a team member who fulfils their function, learns quickly and slips into the company culture. In today’s skills scarce climate, this is something to consider.