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Engineers most needed

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The latest Talent Shortage Survey 2013 from Manpower Group South Africa shows that engineers are proving to be the most difficult position for companies to fill, with IT candidates being the easiest to find and coming in at number 10.

The survey is conducted every year out of a sample of 750 businesses in South Africa.

“In 2012 we saw drivers and skilled trades coming in at position 2 and 3, however this year, these spots have been taken by management positions and teachers. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the lack of candidates for the positions have been filled, just that different sectors of the economy may be experiencing better growth or decline this year,”” explains Lyndy Van Den Barselaar, Managing Director for Manpower Group South Africa.

Position

2013

2012

1.

Engineers

Engineers

2.

Management / Executive (Management/Corporate)

Drivers

3.

Teachers

Skilled Trades

4.

Legal staff (solicitors, lawyers, legal secretaries)

Labourers

5.

Skilled Trades

Management / Executive (Management/Corporate)

6.

Accounting & Finance Staff

Teachers

7.

Restaurants & Hotel staff

Legal staff (solicitors, lawyers, legal secretaries)

8.

Technicians

Secretaries, PAs, Administrative assistants & Office support staff

9.

Customer Service Representatives & Customer Support

Technicians

10.

IT Staff

Accounting & Finance Staff

The top ten job shortage positions for 2013 over 2012.

“”It seems almost unreal that in a country with unemployment hovering around the 25% mark that we should still suffer job shortages, however, lack of technical competencies remains a big problem for employees. This is particularly evident this year in the upper formal sectors in areas such as management, teachers and legal staff. Although sufficient training and expertise is one factor in the shortages, brain drain or insufficient job attractiveness is driving these professions to other job sectors or employment outside of South Africa causing a vacuum,”” explains Barselaar.

72% respondents in the survey said the impact of not filling these positions had a medium to high impact on their business, only 2% said it would have no impact. In the 2012 survey this figure stood at 64%. Of those expecting it to impact on their business, 74% stated that it would reduce their ability to serve clients as well as their competitiveness and productivity. Just over 30% agreed that it would increase employee turnover and reduce innovation and creativity, while 37% said it would create higher compensation costs.

‚””The survey also revealed some of the reasons employers where finding it difficult to fill positions. 58% of employers said that they could not fill positions due to a lack of hard skills or technical competencies, with 45% attributing it to a lack of available applicants or no applicants due to factors such as skills shortages,”” explains Barselaar.

Furthermore, around 30% of employers also mentioned that many employees didn’t have industry-specific qualifications or certifications in a professional field (33%) or that they had a lack of experience (29%). A further 20% cited the reasons as lack of industry-specific qualifications or certifications in skilled trades.

Other factors also included a lack of soft skills (language, customer interaction, etc.) or motivation as well as wanting more pay than was offered. Undesirable geographic locations and a lack of applicants willing to work on a ‘part-time’ or ‘contingent’ basis was also a problem for some.

“”The problem is also that there is a global skills shortage problem. This means that those with the skills are often attracted away from South Africa to other countries with more lucrative job prospects where the skills are also in demand. However, the private sector is also finding its own solutions to the problem.””

60% of respondents said they are adapting talent sourcing to recruit more untapped talent pools and 42% said that they are redefining their qualifying criteria to include individuals who lack some required skills or formal qualifications, but have the potential to acquire them. 33% said they are providing additional training and development to existing staff and just under 20% stated that they are hiring candidates outside of their local region or country.

“”Businesses are trying different approaches too. 40% of the companies surveyed said that they are partnering with educational institutions to create curriculum aligned to their talent needs and 15% said they are utilizing non-traditional or previously untried – recruiting practices, both internally and externally, in response to the growing challenge of workforce strategy. 9% of respondents said that they are increasing starting salaries or considering new offices or building out existing facilities in areas where the talent is.””

“”Without skills development job creation will not be near as effective as it should be. Government needs training programmes and job seekers need accessibility to advice and training for the real world in order to improve their employability based on current requirements in South Africa’s job market,”” says Barselaar.

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Prepare for deepfake impact

Is the world as we know it ready for the real impact of deepfake? CAREY VAN VLAANDEREN, CEO at ESET SA, digs deeper

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Deepfake technology is rapidly becoming easier and quicker to create and it’s opening a door into a new form of cybercrime. Although it’s still mostly seen as relatively harmful or even humorous, this craze could take a more sinister turn in the future and be at the heart of political scandals, cybercrime, or even unimaginable concepts involving fake videos. And it won’t be just public figures that bear the brunt. 

deepfake is the technique of human-image synthesis based on artificial intelligence to create fake content either from scratch or using existing video designed to replicate the look and sound of a real human. Such videos can look incredibly real and currently many of these videos involve celebrities or public figures saying something outrageous or untrue.

New research shows a huge increase in the creation of deepfake videos, with the number online almost doubling in the last nine months alone. Deepfakes are increasing in quality at a swift rate, too. This video showing Bill Hader morphing effortlessly between Tom Cruise and Seth Rogan is just one example of how authentic these videos are looking, as well as sounding. If you search YouTube for the term ‘deepfake’ it will make you realise we are viewing the tip of the iceberg as to what is to come.

In fact, we have already seen deepfake technology used for fraud, where a deepfaked voice was reportedly used to scam a CEO out of a large sum of cash. It is believed the CEO of an unnamed UK firm thought he was on the phone to his boss and followed the orders to immediately transfer €220,000 (roughly US$244,000) to a Hungarian supplier’s bank account. If it was this easy to influence someone by just asking them to do it over the phone, then surely we will need better security in place to mitigate this threat.

Fooling the naked eye

We have also seen apps making DeepNudes where apps were able to turn any clothed person into a topless photo in seconds. Although, luckily, this particular app has now been taken offline, what if this comes back in another form with a vengeance and is able to create convincingly authentic-looking video?

There is also evidence that the production of these videos is becoming a lucrative business especially in the pornography industry. The BBC says “96% of these videos are of female celebrities having their likenesses swapped into sexually explicit videos – without their knowledge or consent”.

recent Californian bill has taken a leap of faith and made it illegal to create a pornographic deepfake of someone without their consent with a penalty of up to $150,000. But chances are that no legislation will be enough to deter some people from fabricating the videos.

To be sure, an article from The Economist discusses that in order to make a convincing enough deepfake you would need a serious amount of video footage and/or voice recordings in order to make even a short deepfake clip.

Having said that, In the not-too-distant future, it may be entirely possible to take just a few short Instagram stories to create a deepfake that is believed by the majority of their followers online or by anyone else who knows them. We may see some unimaginable videos appearing of people closer to home – the boss, our colleagues, our peers, our family. Additionally, deepfakes may also be used for bullying in schools, the office or even further afield.

Furthermore, cybercriminals will definitely use such technology to spearphish victims. Deepfakes keep getting cheaper to create and become near-impossible to detect with the human eye alone. As a result, alt that fakery could very easily muddy the water between fact and fiction, which in turn could force us to not trust anything – even when presented with what our senses are telling us to believe.

Heading off the very real threat

So, what can be done to prepare us for this threat? First, we need to better educate people that deepfakes exist, how they work and the potential damage they can cause. We will all need to learn to treat even the most realistic videos we see that they could be a total fabrication.

Secondly, technology desperately needs to develop better detection of deepfakes. There is already research going into it, but it’s nowhere near where it should be yet. Although machine learning is at the heart of creating them in the first place, there needs to be something in place that acts as the antidote being able to detect them without relying on human eyes alone.

Finally, social media platforms need to realize there is a huge potential threat with the impact of deepfakes because when you mix a shocking video with social media, the outcome tends to spread very rapidly and potentially could have a detrimental impact on society.

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A career in data science – or your money back

The Explore Data Science Academy is offering high demand skills courses – and guarantees employment for trainees

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The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced several new courses in 2020 that it says will radically change the shape of data science education in South Africa. 

Comprising Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics and Machine Learning, each six-month course provides vital digital skills that are in high demand in the market place.  The full time, fully immersive courses each cost R60 000 including VAT. 

The courses are differentiated from any other available by the fact that EDSA has introduced a money back promise if it cannot place the candidate in a job within six months of graduation and at a minimum annual starting salary of R240 000.

“For South Africans with drive and aptitude, this is the perfect opportunity to launch a career in what has been called the sexiest career of the 21stcentury,” says Explore founder Shaun Dippnall.

Dippnall and his team are betting on the explosive demand for data science skills locally and globally.

 “There is a massive supply-demand gap in the area of data science and our universities and colleges are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth and changing nature of specific digital skills being demanded by companies.  

“We are offering specifically a work ready opportunity in a highly skills deficient sector, and one which guarantees employment thereafter.”

The latter is particularly pertinent to young South Africans – a segment which currently faces a 30 percent unemployment rate. 

“If you have skills in either Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics or Machine Learning, you will find work locally, even globally. We’re confident of that,” says Dippnall.

EDSA is part of the larger Explore organisation and has for the past two years offered young people an opportunity to be trained as data scientists and embark on careers in a fast-growing sector of the economy.  

In its first year of operation, EDSA trained 100 learners as data scientists in a fully sponsored, full-time 12-month course.  In year two, this number increased to 400.  

“Because we are connected with hundreds of employers and have an excellent understanding of the skills they need, our current placement rate is over 90 percent of the students we’ve taught,” Dippnall says. “These learners can earn an average of R360 000 annually, hence our offer of your money back if there is no employment at a minimum annual salary of R240k within six months.

“With one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world – recently announced as a national emergency by the President – it is important that institutions teach skills that are in demand and where learners can earn a healthy living afterwards.”

There are qualifying criteria, however. Candidates need to live in close proximity (within one hour commuting distance), or be prepared to live, in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and need to be between the ages of 18 and 55. 

“Our application process is very tough. We’ll test for aptitude and attitude using the qualifying framework we’ve built over the years. If you’re smart enough, you’ll be accepted,” says Dippnall.

To find out more, visit  http://www.explore-datascience.net.

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