Nov 05 2010 13:56 Helena Wasserman and Jana Roos, Fin24
IN SOME angst-ridden workplaces these days, packing a lunch may seem like an optimist's game. Job cuts are rife as companies try to survive in a faltering economy.
But all of this may be news to you if you are in the right profession, or have the right skills and experience.
The massive skills shortage has cushioned some people from the economic fallout.
While they are mainly in the professions (doctors, engineers and accountants in particular), some interesting career opportunities have also emerged elsewhere.
Here are some of the jobs currently in hot demand:
1. Fitter and turner
There is a huge shortage of artisans - particularly fitter and turners, but also millwrights - and instrumentation (electronic and electrical) technicians, says Sandra Burmeister, CEO of recruitment group Landelahni Business Leaders.
The industry urgently needs 50 000 new artisans - the average age of industry workers is between 50 and 54 â€“ but training institutions and Setas are only delivering a couple of thousand a year.
According to some accounts, artisan salaries have quadrupled in the past five years, with many fitter and turners now earning more than R40 000 a month.
Nowadays, artisans can also often expect a sign-on bonus. For big projects, companies are also paying retention and completion bonuses.
To register as a fitter and turner, no formal qualifications are necessary, if you have four years' experience and have completed an aptitude test. However, an N2 qualification would fast-track the process.
2. Risk analyst
The financial crisis and rocketing bad debts in SA have created a massive awareness of the importance of managing risk.
Across all sectors, people are in demand to assess risk to a company - be that operational, credit and financial risks, says Madge Gibson of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters. "This includes the highly valued area of analytics, where there is currently a huge demand for technical skills in the marketplace."
Compliance, particularly to oversee a company's adherence to new corporate governance and accounting standards, is also a huge growth area across retail banking, asset management and investment companies.
Burmeister says her group has have handled more assignments for governance and risk management executives in the past 18 months than for any other profession.
"Not surprising, given the underlying reasons for the economic downturn."
While there isn't a specific qualification for this field, usually a business degree with financial subjects would be a good starting point.
The Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) offers certificates in financial and energy risk management, which may further your career.
You need a good understanding of and experience in the sector you work in to understand the risks involved, says Burmeister.
3. IT systems integrator
The economic slowdown has forced many companies or divisions within companies to merge in an effort to save costs, while corporate takeovers of weaker players have also been on the up.
Where this has happened, companies need the different IT systems to be integrated quickly so that they can start seeing the cost saving benefits of transactions, says Burmeister.
"Systems developers, integrators and network specialists who can integrate and maintain many different platforms and systems to achieve cost and business efficiencies, as well as to support merger and acquisition activity (are in demand)."
4. CA with a higher diploma in tax
Chartered accountants remain in great demand in South Africa, and being alive and in possession of a qualification would pretty much guarantee you a job.
The financial crisis has required many companies to comply with stricter regulation and also put a renewed focus on financial controls. This has increased the demand for CAs.
However, for that extra desirability, having a specialisation field will be a boon. A higher diploma in tax Is particularly valuable, says Gibson, as it would make you competitive in the market.
5. Water manager
South Africa faces some severe water problems â€“ shortages due to droughts in some areas, backlogs in water infrastructure, mine water pollution and massive problems at hundreds of municipal sewage plants.
It is expected that government will outsource operations and maintenance to private companies. Some firms are also looking to secure reliable water supplies for their own businesses.
Other companies are developing new technologies to address the water shortages.
A number of desalination plants may be constructed in the country. The Aveng Group, which manages desalination plants all over the world, is presently exploring the viability of this technology for SA.
It is expected that these developments will create a big demand for engineers who have knowledge of water systems.
There are a number of water-related courses on offer, including a B Tech qualification in water engineering from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. The Centre for Water in the Environment University of Witwatersrand also offers a postgraduate degree.
6. ICT product developers
While Telkom's launch of 8ta and a new marketing drive by Cell C have shaken things up a bit, the local cellphone industry is maturing and companies are searching for new ways to make money.
Product developers who use technology to create new products and services to increase revenue streams across industries â€“ very relevant to telecoms â€“ are in demand, says Burmeister.
She says that the continuing expansion of cellphone groups into Africa also creates an opportunity for local ICT workers â€“ half of MTN's expat employees in other African countries are from SA. Indian group Bharti's takeover of the African cellphone group Zain could also boost demand for local ICT skills.
7. Digital platform and online media developer
Anything related to digital is booming, says Viv Gordon from Viv Gordon placements.
Her company - which specialises in job placements in advertising, marketing, public relations and publishing â€“ has seen a major uptick in this field. "This covers anything from especially e-commerce, but also any jobs for social sites, all the way to the back end," says Gordon.
As digital jobs are relatively new in South Africa, both the supply and demand are quite high. Because the industry is still starting to take off, it is possible for younger workers to enter the field. But there are glitches; because of the fast-moving nature of the sector, skills need to be constantly updated.
As in most industries, the salary differs depending on variables such as job level and experience.
According the Gordon, those in executive positions earn in the vicinity of R55 000 per month.
8. Medical representative
Medical representatives work for pharmaceutical, medical and insurance companies and market their products to healthcare professionals and hospitals.
A recruitment agent from Medsearch Recruitment, an agency which recruits medical and scientific specialists, says there is growing interest in working in this field. "A specific type of person just really likes this kind of job â€“ they get to travel and at a salary of about R25 000 a month, the money isn't bad either."
Getting into the industry is also relatively easy, as long as you have what it takes. According to the agent, some companies don't care if the candidate has a tertiary qualification or not.
"Some people insist on a potential employee having at least a three-year diploma or degree, but all of them are mostly focused on your personality and perhaps some previous marketing experience."
9. Renewable energy project developer
While the green energy industry is still struggling to get on its feet, the sector may offer huge upside potential.
The government forecasts that more than 110 000 green jobs will be created in the next two years as part of its efforts to boost the environmental industry, which could grow in size to almost R70bn in the next three years.
Many sustainable energy suppliers are trying to establish projects and renewable energy project developers will be in great demand, says Professor Wikus van Niekerk, director of the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies at Stellenbosch University.
They will typically put together plans for these kinds of projects. The project developers look at potential sites for wind turbine, solar power or water desalination plants, negotiate with the landowners and address legal aspects.
A large part of the job is also managing finances. Experience in corporate finance and large-scale, capital-intensive projects will be to your advantage.
Remuneration could have a wide range, depending on the experience and work to be done - anything from R300 000 to R700 000 per year, says Frank Spencer, CEO of Emergent Energy. But he warns that there is not yet much of a renewable energy industry in the country.
Another burgeoning green career, which could be in hot demand within five years, is in turbine maintenance, says Van Niekerk.
A number of turbines will go into operation in the next couple of years, and there will be a huge demand for people who can service them.
At present, there is no training for maintenance technicians in South Africa. You will have to do a course in Germany, the UK, USA, Denmark or Australia. As part of the training, you will for instance learn how to scale 26m-long wind turbine blades.
There are only 24 working wind turbine blades in SA at the moment, but this looks set to expand quickly.
10. Forensic expert
Tsholo Mthenjane, who runs a credit and risk desk, says there is a major upswing in demand for candidates in this sector.
An increase in fraud, tighter measures against money laundering and compliance requirements have created a wide range of forensic careers, spanning different industries.
This includes forensic auditors, who may do investigative accounting to uncover possible fraud and ensure that a company complies with government and industry regulations.
A BCom in internal audit or finance and a national diploma encompassing forensics, policing, law or commerce are some of the qualifications needed in the industry.
In the IT field, systems auditing is also in demand as a result of the increase in online fraud, Burmeister says.
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