IT Positions in South Africa, do they require tertiary education?

In South Africa, there is a strong emphasis on experience when it comes to technical or IT positions. IT job ads in South Africa are generally opened up with a requirement of “IT related Degree or Diploma” but, in my experiences of being an applicant without a degree (only a 1-year Comp Sci. diploma) as well as being in the position of hiring applicants, this is often just a small benefit when it comes to the final choice. In the interviews I have taken part in I have never had an in depth discussion about the qualifications either I myself have or an applicant that I am interviewing has.

In this (IT) industry in South Africa, it’s a known fact that for technical positions (programmers, technicians etc.), salary is almost solely based on the amount of experience an applicant has.

Another point I found when being an applicant with a diploma is that the difference between a 1 diploma and a 3 year degree is quite vast. Not exactly 2 years ahead due to degrees generally being spread out with a lot of holidays and the 1 year diplomas being 48 out of the 52 weeks in the year, but still a very significant amount more learning is gained in the degree program. Yet, job ads were looking for “either a degree or diploma”.

I do keep up to date with job postings for IT related positions in my country and I have found that recently, a number of jobs are asking for a “3 year degree” rather than simply a degree or diploma.

For positions in management, which mainly consist of project manager positions, project management training has always been a requirement in my experience of reading through positions, but along with that comes a requirement of, generally, a minimum of 3 years of experience in project management.

This brings me to the catch-22 of the job market in South Africa that I found in my first 2 years of being in the industry. Practically nobody will even interview you without relevant experience, let alone hire you. Without experience you cannot get a job, and without a job you most certainly can’t get (valuable) experience.

I feel the main area where specific training is not a major requirement is in the field of IT support. Many positions are available in support and most of them involve being trained in the specific scenarios of the organisation on the job. Even with regards to hardware support, I find the most talented hardware support people have learned themselves. The courses such as the A+ and other technical courses, which I have done personally, are almost trivial to someone who has “played around” with computers for a few years. In my opinion, it is difficult to teach such an area as the reasons behind hardware/software failing are not standard, they require trial and error even for the experienced hardware technician.

For technical positions, I have always, and my colleagues in the industry, been given mini-projects to complete and/or written general tests. Personally I give applicants a mini-project as I do not believe that written tests are a good when it comes to programming, specifically. Knowing functions off by heart doesn’t mean much, as generally we all have access to the internet to solve these issues, rather the ability to solve a problem and produce a project with good quality code.

To conclude, the situation in South Africa has become more focused on pre-trained individuals over the years – but this is generally just an initial prerequisite to avoid interviewing potentially mis-fit applicants. The strongest focus does still lie on experience in the specific field that is being applied for. 

How can IT enhance a Managers Function, Role and Skill?

Managers have many functions, roles and skills, below I will illustrate one of each and how IT is able to improve performance in each of these examples.

  • FUNCTION – Manage Time and Resources Efficiently

As described by Management-Hub.com (n.d.), and as we all know well, time is “precious and vital”. A manager needs to manage his/her time well between his/her team and superiors as well as his/her time spent on organisational goals that require his/her personal capacity and skills.

I.T has introduced calendar software, such as Google’s Calendar (www.google.com/calendar) that is able to send SMS (text), E-Mail and Pop-up (if the calendar happens to be open) alerts to users on their cellular phone, laptop, computer or land line (depending on the carriers ability to read and/or receive text messages). Assuming that the manager will have with him at least one network enabled or communication enabled device at all times (which I think is a fairly safe assumption) this allows him/her to be constantly reminded of his appointments.

  • ROLE – Intermediary between employee groups and top management

About-Personal-Growth.com (n.d.) describes a manager as the “middle person in between top management level and the team that reports to him”. As most organisations are hierarchical, as well as the requirement for efficiency, managers are usually the liaison between upper management and regular employees. Due to the sheer size of certain organisations it would be difficult for a manager to keep track of exact discrepancies, complaints, issues, performance reviews and other requests from either party. I.T has brought with it the ability to track accountability and exact details of communications with tools as basic as E-mail. A manager will be able to refer to messages from management/employees directly when addressing issues with either party without missing any details.

  • SKILL – Good Planning

This is, in my opinion, one of the most important skills a manager requires – some may perhaps think more when referring to a project manager but I do think it’s equally important in all areas of management. Without organised planning the manager is unable to assess progress on achieving organisational goals. As About-Personal-Growth.com points out, “having goals and planning out the directions allow for effective time management and saves cost and resources”.

Planning also ties up with adaptability to change, both positive and negative. I think this would tie in with Buchanan and Huczynski‘s (2010, p.52) quotation of Ansoff in which Ansoff states that managers who are unable to develop an entrepreneurial way of thinking “must be replaced”.

References

About-Personal-Growth.com (n.d.) Managers – Roles and Responsibilities [Online]. Available from: http://www.about-personal-growth.com/managers.html (Accessed: 6 February 2011).

Buchanan, A. & Huczynski, A. (2010) Organizational Behavior. 7th Edition. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

Management-Hub.com (n.d.) Roles & Responsibilities of a Manager in an Organization [Online]. Available from: http://www.management-hub.com/hr-manager-roles.html (Accessed: 6 February 2011).