At a media briefing held on 26 November, the Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Blade Nzimande, formally published the Government Gazette containing the highly anticipated 2020 National List of Occupations in High Demand (OIHD).

“The OIHD list is an essential resource for skills development initiatives across the tertiary education, public and private sectors,” says Marisa Jacobs, Managing Director at Xpatweb, a private firm that was invited to contribute to the list’s compilation.

Why the list is important

The OIHD list alerts tertiary education institutes, professional bodies, employers and other stakeholders to occupations that indicate relatively high employment growth in the past, present and future but are currently in shortage. This allows them to establish courses and internal skills development programmes to alleviate future shortfalls in business-critical competencies.

The Gazette regards an occupation as being in shortage when the demand for labour exceeds the supply of people willing to work for a particular income, under prevailing working conditions, at a specific place and point in time.

“We encourage stakeholders to review the list against their existing training programmes and human resources requirements to ensure they are adequately prepared,” says Jacobs.

Private sector input

“As the only private sector company to receive special mention in the Gazette, we are proud to have been consulted in this process,” says Jacobs.

She attributes the firm’s inclusion based on the Critical Skills Survey Results, which is an annual survey that reports the skills that organisations consider most difficult to source and recruit.

On the basis of this research, Xpatweb was invited to present its findings as part of an interdepartmental session, also comprising the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), the Department of Labour, and the Department of Trade and Industry. This included the methodology used and impact on employers.

The Xpatweb Critical Skills Survey is in its 5th year running and, with inputs from the DHET in the above consultation sessions, the 2019/20 survey is more in depth to further unpack feedback from the participants.

The inputs received up to end September 2020 have already been incorporated into the OIHD list published on 26 November.

The impact of COVID

The 2020 OIHD list takes into consideration the impact of COVID-19 on economic activities and the consequent shift in demand for affected occupations. These are highlighted either in red, indicating possible slower recovery in or lower demand for the skill, or green, indicating possible faster recovery or increased demand.

“This introduces some uncertainty into the equation, and we will closely monitor how the pandemic plays out and if there are lasting effects on the job market,” says Jacobs.

Towards a critical skills list

The OIHD list is not a critical skills list and does not indicate those occupations requiring the employment of skilled foreign nationals for whom visas may be obtained.

The DHET will work with the DHA to amend the existing national critical skills list, which was last updated in 2014. The list is expected to be published in early 2021 and incorporate occupations that have recently emerged.

“Our research suggests these will include occupations in the growing oil and gas sector, ICT skills and STEM teachers,” says Jacobs.



Marisa Jacobs