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Expert network engineers invaluable in powering SA's growth

South Africa and the African continent as a whole have a dire shortage of highly skilled network engineers to power the continent's increasing dependence on connectivity, says Jutel.

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Despite the growing need across Africa for high-level network engineering skills, too many enterprises and individuals overlook the need for ongoing skills development in this field, says Conrad Britton, Senior Instructor at Jutel, the South African Juniper Networks Education Partner.

"In South Africa, there are only around 400 expert level network engineers, compared with around 5 000 in a country like Australia," he says. "This is a massive shortfall that will make itself felt more over time as organisations seek to improve their connectivity and defend themselves against increasing cyber threats. Already, we see highly skilled network engineers able to virtually name their price, and skills imported from overseas as demand for high-end skills increases."

Britton says one challenge in developing the necessary networking skills in Africa is that many organisations have the mindset that employing a range of high level niche skills is costly. "They prefer the 'Jack of all Trades' approach to employing skills. But they have to consider what the cost to their businesses could be when a Jack of all Trades is unable to prevent an attack on the network, or when a network slows to the point that productivity is lost or the company's reputation is damaged."

"The ability to manage networks, move switch and secure packet data, troubleshoot and optimise network performance is increasingly important as data volumes grow and companies depend on their connectivity to remain competitive," Britton notes.

"Unfortunately, we find that the majority of people working as network engineers lack the in-depth skills and practical experience they need to ensure their company networks perform optimally," he says. "Gaining these in-depth skills requires intensive, ongoing training, particularly because technologies and threats change constantly and as network engineers, we have to keep up and anticipate the changes."

Achieving expert network engineer status is a lengthy process that takes a minimum of four years and requires a passion for understanding and managing the network, says Britton. "But once a network engineer reaches expert level, he or she will have companies bidding for their expertise."

Tracy Burrows
ITWeb contributor.

Tracy Burrows is ITWeb contributor.

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