With as many as 30.1 percent of South Africans being left without work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was interesting to tap into the data to uncover the most needed and highest paying jobs, most searched-for terms on recruitment sites and how senior professionals can give back. By Vanessa Rogers.

First up, the most in-demand jobs in the country range from surveyor, mechanical engineer and java developer, to software engineer, engineer, IT manager or technologist, pharmacist, financial manager and analyst, according to recruitment website Adzuna. While salaries have dipped slightly in relation to 2019 levels, these positions tend to pay salaries of between R583 240 to R518 640 per annum.

On a slightly different note, the top ten highest paid jobs according to Y-Axis were also ICT and Engineering related – ranging from software engineer (up to R1,2-million each year) and pilot (up to R695 800), to lawyer (from R643 440), IT Manager (variable), medical specialist (from R476 000), petroleum engineer (up to R572 600), management consultant (from R392 000), actuary (R598 055), air traffic controller (R583 450) and chartered accountant (R434 191). 

Next, the most popular search term was, of course, “remote” – up 563 percent since March 2020 – with an average salary of at least R365 135 per annum for such positions. A second most searched-for term was “apprenticeships”, revealing that many individuals had lost their entry-level positions over the COVID-19 peak and were now seeking similar-level employment, without needing to have a degree or diploma.

Word from the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) is that the dire need for software development and financial management skills in the SA job market correlates with the fact that as many as 60 percent of the country’s unemployed have not achieved a matric exemption.

Yes, up to 65 percent of the county’s rarest skills are tech-related; the next most needed being managerial and financial qualifications. “Although the data only analyses online job ads, we were able to draw a conclusive inference that South African companies are having a hard time finding and retaining rare tech and financial management skills,” revealed Adzuna South Africa country manager, Jesse Green. “By looking at the supply and demand for job skills, we have a better overall understanding of which jobs are the highest in demand and, in turn, offer the most rewarding salaries.”

On the back of the above, what then is needed from a non-executive (NED) director when it comes to, for example, taking a position on a board in the science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) industries?

First up, reveals director at BossJansen Executive Search, Thuli Nkosi, “These external, independent or outside directors should ideally challenge the direction and performance of a company, and team, on whose board they have been chosen to sit. Experience and their NED role should see them taking a more objective slant of matters than the company’s executive directors are able to do. Certain NEDs can also assist that company in a PR capacity – due to their role in community projects, philanthropic approach, past experience and the goodwill with which they are associated. At a start-up, they could well be expected to take on a mentorship role for members of the in-house team and may even be able to leverage their outside network to bring in clients and/or venture capital, as this is required.”

So for those considering a NED position, perhaps as advertised on the exclusive networking platform Boardroom International, Nkosi suggests that you ask yourself whether you are able to offer the following:

• ability to keep the executive directors and other members of the board accountable
• ability to take an objective standpoint in helping to manage a company’s strategy, performance and risk
• ability to provide unique insight into problems that might hinder a business in its growth, productivity or profitability
• ability to verify fiscal responsibility and to serve the needs/wants of stakeholders over management/the board
• willingness to put aside time to oversee the company, in amongst other commitments on their schedule
• ability to keep all matters confidential – specifically where the NED may serve on two or more boards in the same industry or sector.

Want to read further about the NED role? The peer-to-peer online board community Critical Eye provides great insight. For example, non-executive chair at InfraStrata, Graham Lyon, advises that the temptation is always there “to actually do the job for the executive”. He says: “One of the challenges is to be able to step back and create a team. I often say it’s like spinning plates … my job is to go around and make sure those plates don’t [actually] fall off.”

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