Graduates with in-demand skills can have high earning potential and flexibility, says Johan van Niekerk, chief executive for Africa at global talent agency Outsized.

The financial sector, along with the insurance sector, saw global interest in South Africans, according to the firm’s latest report on skills in demand in Africa and Asia.

Van Niekerk said that while young people no longer want a lifelong career with one employer, companies are also increasingly looking to tap into experience and skills as and when they need them. “This means more options for professionals to choose what work they do, when and even where,” he said.

The Outsized Talent On-Demand Report 2022 reveals that the 10 most in-demand skills in Africa this year are in the following fields:

  • Actuarial;
  • Data analytics;
  • Legal and regulatory;
  • Program evaluation;
  • Business analytics;
  • Quantitative analysis;
  • Market research;
  • Accounting, and;
  • Business analytics.

Van Niekerk said Outsized saw some growth in project-related skills (23%), such as project and program managers, 20% demand for strategy consultants, 18% demand for financial services-focused roles , such as quantity surveyors, actuaries and financial risk specialists – and a 17% increase in demand for technology and data-related roles such as data analytics and data architects.

On his platform, he said the typical daily rate for South Africans with such skills in the Middle East or Southeast Asia is between 5,000 rand ($350) and 7,500 rand ($450). Salary, however, depends on years of experience.

Van Niekerk noted that professionals typically have at least seven to ten years of experience before becoming valuable resources for freelancers and making the leap into the world of freelancing and consulting.

Young professionals need to start planning early if they want flexible work options later, a talent expert said.

“If you’re going to go places and think about building a professional career with flexibility and choice, you should have it on your radar as early as possible. Build your experience strategically by taking on a range of projects and tasks.”

Van Niekerk said freelancers are entrepreneurs, so you need to learn skills like time management, sales and marketing if you want to freelance.

When to make a shift

Before moving on to freelancing, Van Niekerk said graduates should spend at least a few years in permanent employment, learning and gaining as much experience and maturity as possible.

He said formal employment also provides credibility and is a key opportunity to save money. “The freedom you get as a freelancer comes at a price that your income can be volatile,” Van Niekerk warned.

“That means your ability to absorb financial volatility is also important. If you’re going to become a freelancer, you need to have a financial cushion. If, for example, you could save 20% of your income, in five years you’d save an annual income, which would make the transition easier.”

He also recommended looking for a longer-term contract as a first transition to freelancing to get some initial stability.

Read: These jobs have been added to South Africa’s essential skills list

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