SA's most sought-after skills - and this year's biggest jump in demand

Information and communications technology and engineering skills continue to be the most sought-after in South Africa (iStock)
Information and communications technology and engineering skills continue to be the most sought-after in South Africa (iStock)
  • Information and communications technology and engineering skills continue to be the most sought-after in South Africa.
  • A "brain drain" has created a massive skills shortage in the engineering sector.
  • The survey also found the biggest jump in demand to be for artisans.


Information and communications technology and engineering skills continue to be the most sought-after in South Africa, according to the latest Annual Critical Skills Survey produced by specialised solutions company Xpatweb.

The purpose of the survey is to highlight which skills employers find most difficult to recruit locally. About 178 companies - including some listed on the JSE - took part in this year's survey.

Marisa Jacobs, a director at Xpatweb, says the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE), already stated in 2019 that SA continues to lose hundreds of engineers each year, due to emigration.

"This 'brain drain' has created a massive skills shortage in the engineering sector. When looking at ICT professionals, a summit hosted by the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA) in 2019 revealed that SA is in desperate need of ICT skills, and sadly, the education sector is just unable to produce these skills in the numbers the country needs," says Jacobs.

The Xpatweb survey found 89% of participants stated that their organisation struggles to recruit critically skilled individuals. Furthermore, 76% of participants indicated the need to search internationally for these skills.

When asked about the visa application process, 79% of participants indicated that only a limited number of companies managed to avoid the negative impact that SA's visa application system might have on their business.

Artisan skills

The survey also found the biggest jump in demand to be for artisans. Jacobs points out that already in 2017 the SA government indicated that South Africa has a shortfall of about 40 000 qualified artisans.

"This gap is expected to widen as demand continues to increase and forces industry to import skilled artisans from various countries to complete time sensitive projects. It is important to be reminded that skills are globally sourced for the economic benefit of those countries and South Africa has to compete for scarce skills," says Jacobs.

"When viewing the results in their entirety, it remains evident that there is a continued lack of critically skilled individuals available in South Africa and key stakeholders need to address these problems collectively in an effort to reinvigorate the economy."

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