When it comes to the increasingly important area of application development, there’s a distinct lack of new skills in the market. There’s a desperate need to encourage the growth of new skills and to get young developers to put up their hands to get involved in this industry, explains Colleen Becker, pre-sales engineer for Rocket at Axiz.

“The majority of developers in the market today are older. In fact, there’s a global shortage of such skills, so it’s imperative that efforts are made to encourage more youngsters to take up a career as a developer, and to ensure they are capable when it comes to the latest technologies. There’s no doubt that the industry clearly needs their energy and the new ideas that they’ll bring,” she says.

“The biggest challenge is that even those youngsters who are entering the industry, are seldom focused on the rarer developer skills and platforms, simply because these are not as widely known as, for example, something like .Net. It is thus important to drive awareness of these skills, as having these in their armoury will make them far more employable in the long run.”

Becker adds this is why it’s important for industry organisations to implement programmes that encourage students to try these lesser-known platforms, in order to experience them and potentially have their eyes opened to the benefits they offer.

This is where companies like Axiz can contribute by creating app development challenges, says Rezelde Botha, business unit manager for data and analytics software at Axiz. She points out that the aim of such challenges should be to encourage young developers to push the boundaries of their skills and they should be encouraged to develop solutions that meet uniquely South African challenges.

“Many of the students that participate in this type of hackathon are from previously disadvantaged areas and, as such, they have serious motivation already to help uplift their families and communities, so I honestly believe they will develop some unique applications that will be of benefit the communities they live in.”

Botha points out that many of the students participating face an uphill struggle on their path to becoming a developer. These challenges could be anything from access to learning centres, to access to computer equipment or the Internet. Sometimes, she says, even when they are studying on a bursary and have access to the above, they face issues with regard to accommodation and even food.

“So, for us, it is not only about bringing in new blood and helping to develop rare skills, but also about encouraging these youngsters to do something positive by learning skills that will serve them well in the future and at the same time developing an app that can have a significant impact on their communities.

“Some of the best innovation comes about when there is discomfort and pain and, more often than not, technology is the way to solve this. Bear in mind that being in the developing world, we have many reasons for discomfort and so have the opportunity for fantastic innovation. Moreover, we are not only encouraging these developers to learn the skills that will enable them to compete in the business environment, but by focusing on scarce skills, we believe we are setting them up to be able to get a job anywhere in the world.”

Becker indicates that an additional layer of learning and development can be provided for the winners of such hackathons in the form of prizes that include participation in international hackathons.

“This can assist the developers to hone their skills more finely, as well as give them an opportunity to showcase themselves to the rest of the world,” she concludes.