Johannesburg - Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda on Tuesday expressed concern at the low number of university students taking Information Communication Technology (ICT) courses.
"The low percentage of learners matriculating with mathematics and physical science subjects at higher grade limits the number of students taking university ICT courses," the minister said.
He said research showed that ICT related skills curricula for first degrees at higher institutions found that universities recorded a decline in the number of students enrolling for ICT related degrees since 2002, and hence a decline in the number qualifying students since 2005.
Nyanda further added that South Africa does not compare well with other countries in terms of ICT skills availability.
"Research regarding the underlying reasons, and measurements related to them, show that South Africa scores poorly in terms of youth interest in science, quality of mathematics and science education, government prioritization of ICT and the extent of staff training.
"This results in ICT skills not being readily available for industry," the minister said.
The reason for the low number of students taking ICT courses, he said, could partly be attributed to the lack of information on employment opportunities and the perception that ICT courses are difficult.
He said, therefore, recruitment campaigns and a concerted attempt to distribute reliable information about ICT careers and courses were crucial to dispel these perceptions.
E-skills are essential in empowering individuals so that they can participate fully as citizens of the Information Society and take advantage of all the opportunities before them such as employment and wealth creation.
The minister was speaking at the 2009 ICT Career Expo which seeks to create awareness about career opportunities within the ICT sector and to profile ICT related youth development programmes within the Department of Communications.
It also seeks to facilitate an opportunity for students to interact with experienced industry professionals and also afford them an opportunity to do site visits to government and corporate ICT facilities.
The ICT Career Expo is an initiative by the Ministry of Communications in collaboration with Telkom, Further Education and Training Colleges and other stakeholders in the private sector.
Telkom has committed R50 million over the past three years towards government's Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition initiative.
Since the project started in August 2006, various programmes have been conducted and managed by Telkom's Centre for Learning.