Recruiters weigh-in on demand for STEM careers in South Africa

Labour-intensive jobs are becoming a thing of the past with robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning beginning to take over repetitive tasks in areas such as manufacturing.

What this means, is that students today, must seriously consider acquiring qualifications in the areas that give them immediate employment after university, today and into the future. One of these key areas is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).

To better understand which degrees and skills in the technology and engineering fields are most in demand, we decided to follow-up on our feature focusing on the top (STEM) degrees locally and speak to some of the top recruitment agencies in the country to get their take on where the demand for jobs exists.

“Without STEM skills, South African learners are at risk of adding to the population of the jobless who may have degrees, but are unprepared to support and contribute to economic growth,” said Panyaza Lesufi, member of the executive council (MEC) for education.

Demand for Engineers

When it comes to professions in South Africa, engineering is considered a scarce skill and is in high demand. It’s a sought after career with South Africa only producing about 1 500 engineering graduates annually, and with only half of these going on to work in the field of engineering.

This is according to a study by the South African Institute of Civil Engineering (SAICE), which states that South Africa has fewer engineers than doctors.

Our industry experts revealed that they experienced the most demand for candidates in the mechanical, chemical, electrical and electronic engineering areas. Another coveted skill in the engineering industry is sales experience, which adds to a candidates appeal.

“Although we may have many graduates within these fields, we don’t have enough experienced candidates as  job seekers are enticed to take up positions internationally where they are handsomely rewarded,” notes Mel Muller, recruitment manager at Kontak Recruitment.

Demand for Technology skills

Our industry experts also noted that careers in technology such as software development, cybersecurity, data science and information technology are also sought after in South Africa.

“With the global demand for data and information continually growing, data scientists and information specialists are in high demand,” adds Misu Zama, technology specialist recruiter at Paton Personnel.

Specialisation advice

The first step to getting that sought-after position, is to have a degree or diploma in your chosen  field of study. For STEM qualifications you will require a bachelor’s degree.

A master’s degree will deepen and expand the knowledge you have acquired as an undergraduate, while a PhD is designed for people who are primarily interested in the field of research and education.

All the hard work of studying for years at university certainly does pay off, positions that are in high demand require high compensation.

Looking at some of the key specialities, software developers can take home between R40 000 to R70 000 per month. Electrical engineering positions range from R60 000 to R100 000 per month, while mathematics professors can take home R50 000 to R80 000 per month. And, configuration engineers, along with support engineering jobs range from R25 000 to R45 000 per month.

What about your CV?

The specialist recruiters we spoke to had some really good advice about how to put together an attractive CV and make it stand out from others in their eyes.

Their advice was as follows:

  • Structure your CV so that it can catch the recruiter’s eye.
  • Choose an attractive layout that is not too flashy, and is simple and easy to read.
  • Remove all unnecessary information, mention relevant training and put emphasis on your work experience.
  • Don’t use one-liners, and do spell checking.
  • Ensure that your full qualifications are listed with supporting documents.
  • If you have just completed your university qualifications, remember to include any part-time work experience.

Karen Smit, branch manager at Dante Personnel says, “Job history is important.  We look for stability on a CV and job hopping is definitely a detractor.”

In conclusion

The South African government is seriously concerned with creating jobs in order to bring down the high unemployment rate and to meet its 2030 national development goals. It knows that there will continue to be a shortage of STEM-skilled candidates in our country, at least for the foreseeable future, and employment is directly linked to the growth of the economy and South Africa as a nation. Government is thus placing a huge emphasis on STEM qualifications as they’re stimulating an economy.

According to  Daniel Visser, CSIR strategy manager, who spoke at the National Science and Technology Forum in Cape Town earlier this year, “A lot of upskilling is going to be needed to become a specialist within your sector, to have the great job, but you will increasingly need to understand how your work affects other fields or disciplines, and vice versa.”

So, we have it from the experts, and government.

If you are a student looking for a long and interesting career, to study further, or embark on a different career, seriously consider a STEM qualification if you have an interest in science and technology. It is the way of the future and your qualification in this field will stand you in good stead for a long time to come.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]


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