An examination of the e-Competence requirements of potential information systems graduate employers in the Western Cape and the information systems curriculum at University X
Knowledge, skills and competences (KSC) are regarded as the new global currency of the 21st century, without which a country’s investments in other resources will collapse. These strategic skills and competences, which are related to specific requirements of the knowledge-driven economy and information society, are referred to as electronic skills (e-skills) and electronic competences (e-competences). Possessing e-skills and e-competencies allows for a more effective and inclusive participation within a global knowledge-driven economy and broader society. However, with a history of inequity, South Africa has been adversely impacted by globalisation and rapidly progressing Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), resulting in the country lagging behind in global competitiveness and e-readiness. Since e-skills and e-competencies are considered a pre-requisite for securing professional employment in most of the world, there is a need for Higher Education Institutions to determine firstly, which e-competencies are required in today’s society and then to ensure that these e-competencies are sufficiently provided to their students. This statement is premised on the understanding that quality, relevant and adequate e-skills and e-competences are required for a more effective and inclusive participation within a global knowledge-driven economy and broader society. In the context of a regressing youth unemployment crisis in South Africa and with the backdrop of the global mismatch between demand and supply of e-skills and e-competences, this study investigated the alignment between demand and supply of e-competences in South Africa. Thus, the overarching aim of this study was to determine how well the Information Systems curriculum at a South African university (supply) matched the e-competence requirements of potential employers of Information Systems graduates in South Africa, specifically in the Western Cape Province (demand). This was achieved through two specific objectives which were firstly, to develop a conceptual framework that could be used to assess if there was a mismatch between demand and supply and then 2) to use the conceptual framework to make recommendations towards alignment of demand and supply. By achieving these objectives, this study makes a significant contribution to the current e-skills dialogue and existing body of knowledge by positing a conceptual framework ofe-Competences for Information Systems graduates in the South African context, which was developed after an extensive examination of the literature related to the demand and supply of e-competences; and eleven existing e-skills and e-competence frameworks. A holistic perspective of e-competences is illustrated in this e-Competence framework, which suggests a vertical and horizontal view of the knowledge, skill and attitude (KSA) components in the e-competence definition. By using three vertical layers, the framework categorises the combination of fifty specific e-competencies expected of undergraduate and postgraduate Information Systems graduates. The first layer indicates the core competence categories, which are Cognitive Competence, Functional Competence, ICT Competence, Personal Competence (which includes Career Management, Ethical and Emotional Intelligence Competences), Global Competence (which includes Behavioural, Intercultural and Social Intelligence Competences) and lastly Meta-competences, which underscore all the other competences. The second and third layers of the framework allocated fifty specific e-competencies to these core competence categories. The study was positioned within a qualitative, interpretive research paradigm and used a case study design. The research sites were twenty two IS graduate employers in the Western Cape Province who participate in the annual internship programme at the IS department of University X. Convenient sampling was used to collect data over a period of five years, from 2010 until 2014. The study used two data collection instruments, which were performance evaluation forms and follow up interviews. These two instruments provided rich data in both qualitative and quantitative forms and the variety of data allowed for the reliability and validity to be ensured with the qualitative data being triangulated with the quantitative data. Content analysis was used to analyse the data through a three-stage open coding process. Nine findings were identified, which indicate that there was a mismatch between the demand and supply of e-competences in the selected case study. The mismatches were found to be either in the knowledge, skill or attitude component of e-competence. It was noted that twenty one of the fifty e-competencies in the conceptual framework were taught at University X, eleven were assumed to be embedded within the IS curriculum and eighteen e-competencies are not taught at University X. Significantly, most employers regarded attitudes as a more important requirement for e-competence than knowledge and skills.