Critical skills survey reveals SA’s most sought-after professions

Xpatweb’s survey highlights the most in demand scarce skills in the country.

Xpatweb’s Critical Skills survey 2020/21 has been released, highlighting the top 10 skills businesses struggle to recruit locally.

The top 10 skills are engineers (18 percent), ICT (13 percent), foreign language speakers (10 percent), media and marketing specialists (nine percent), artisans (eight percent), C-suite executives (seven percent), senior financial executives (six percent), health professionals and related clinical sciences (five percent) science professionals (four percent) and accounting (one percent).

178 companies participated in this year’s survey, including JSE-listed companies and large multinational groups operating across Africa.

Xpatweb’s managing director Marisa Jacobs said the report data was mostly used by stakeholders who influenced policies on critical skills, and the import of foreign professionals.

The survey further states that there was an increasing urgency for media and marketing specialists, which Marisa said was probably due to digital advances, the social media marketing explosion, and the growing sophistication of the marketing profession.

The survey found that 77 percent of organisations reported that they struggled to source critical skills in South Africa for local and cross-border operations. Seventy-six percent asserted that an international search would help them satisfy their objectives.

And 92 percent indicated that missing critical skills have a significant impact on those who participated in the survey. “The gaps are typically associated with the top 10 critical skills above,” it said.

The report further explains that South African employers were sometimes accused of overlooking local talent in favour of foreign professionals. However, 81 percent of respondents viewed local succession planning and skills transfer as a priority for their business.

“Many organisations have exited their foreign nationals after successfully transferring their competencies and responsibilities to local employees” added Marisa.

The survey noted that although demand was high, employers could not risk the integrity of their operations by hiring inexperienced employees.