2024: The year of demand-led training

2024 needs to be the year that we move the needle as business leaders toward demand-led training that will assist in reducing the software development skills shortage that South African companies are facing. This gap is because there isn’t a real push towards aligning training programmes with the skills that companies require for specific roles.

Training candidates – or Sprinters as we call them – through a demand-led approach makes a valuable impact to both their lives as well as to the organisation, as immersive training means that they are familiar with a company’s technology stack and their office culture, making them immediately employable.

South Africa needs an agile, skilled, and adaptable workforce, as this is a critical objective for the private sector. This is especially true in an environment in which South Africa is facing growing economic challenges and rampant youth unemployment.

Jessica Hawkey, MD of redAcademy, details how to implement demand-led skills training in an IT department within a company, as well as its benefits.

Traditional training

Samelane points out traditional teaching measures still dominate how things are done. Yet, there is a distinctive shift towards immersive experiential learning, which prepares students for real-life challenges.

Such immersive training also caters for those students who learn better in real-life, or a live environment. It allows for better understanding of the subject matter, increased engagement, and motivation as well as better retention of the information, which is especially important in a fast-paced technology driven world.

As companies’ requirements change, so too does the way tech skills are taught. Not only is there a need to amend course curriculum to adjust for a specific necessity, but we must also move towards a more experiential training environment – giving students a hands-on experience in a live environment. This is a shift towards doing rather than hearing how things should be done.

What is it?

A 2022 report from the Department of Higher Education and Training, Skills Supply and Demand in South Africa, found that South Africa, overall, has a large imbalance between the demand for skills, and the supply. This paper states that several workers are either underqualified or overqualified for their current jobs, and there are mismatches between a worker’s qualifications and the level of prowess required for their jobs.

Demand-led skills development is a key solution when it comes to ensuring that those who desperately need jobs can find them, while matching candidates with companies that seek specific skills in software development.

Taking this a step further is work-integrated learning, which makes it possible for companies that provide skills development in a live environment, like us, to present candidates to the company that already have the relevant experience – a process closer to an internal promotion.

Why it works

Demand-led skills training in a live environment benefits not only work seekers, but also companies because it resolves a specific skills gap, and puts the commercial objective front and centre for training.

It allows, in our experience, the employers the ability to focus on more strategic elements of the business and identify further areas in which they need to develop a pipeline of talent.

We have already seen evidence that immersive training also enables the development of softer skills, enabling those entering the workforce to engage with their peers and other colleagues in a way that fits in with the company’s culture. It also means that they will learn confidence to put their ideas forward, which adds a diversity of voices to the company, enabling them growth and creative ways to problem-solving.

Company benefits

Demand-led training not only aligns with company priorities in terms of business strategy and creating a pipeline of talent to help fulfil those plans in the IT department, but also saves money because it cuts down on the cost of hiring.

Hiring a new staff member can cost anywhere between three to four times what the employee’s annual salary would be, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. The bulk of the expense comes from the amount of time department leaders spend assisting HR in the hiring process.

Immersive training cuts down on this spend because the process is more akin to promoting from within the company rather than hiring from outside and having to assess skills and cultural fit. It reduces pressure on HR to recruit, reduces pressure on hiring managers to oversee, and reduces time to productivity of team members.

There are additional savings to be had, such as quicker onboarding of new talent, as well as them immediately being able to contribute to the current team.

The needle is finally shifting away from supporting training for training’s sake to the actual impact made, a shift that will be made through partnerships across all stakeholders including trusted partners who have been making an impact when it comes to livelihoods changed forever and not just the number of people trained.

This will stand South Africa in good stead as we seek to move with technological trends while also creating jobs and benefiting the economy.