Skills shortages and challenges in the employment of foreign professionals in the selected KwaZulu-Natal higher education institutions.
Ngonyama, Thulie Lillian.
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This study examines the challenge of academic skills shortage in South Africa as represented in the selected institutions of higher learning in the KwaZulu-Natal province. Further to the shortage of academic skills, the study examines the challenges encountered in the mediation of attracting and recruiting academic expatriates who in turn encounter their own obstacles in adjusting into and settling in their host country, host academic institutions and host communities. The term “academic expatriates” as reflecting throughout this study is being used interchangeable with the term “foreign professionals” reflecting in the title of this study. The selected institutions of higher education are the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Durban University of Technology (DUT), Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) and the University of Zululand (UNIZULU). Methodologically the study deploys a mixed methods approach to research. The merits of the mixed methods approach to research are chiefly that it employs both the quantitative and qualitative techniques of inquiry. For that reason, the study is able to examine and interrogate its subject from a multiplicity of quantitative and qualitative vantage points, yielding a much more enriched and enriching illumination. The results, observations, arguments and conclusions of a mixed methods study tend to enjoy more credibility, reliability and dependability than the outcomes of a study that employs a singular and narrow approach. Mixing the strengths of both the quantitative and the qualitative techniques delivers much more durable articulation and understanding of the subject. The study used both qualitative and quantitative research measures to collect and analyse data. The explanatory sequential design approach was used. The researcher amended and validated a 5 point Likert scale questionnaire originally developed by Black to study expatriates’ adjustment challenges. This questionnaire was then used to collect data relating to interaction adjustment, general adjustment and work adjustment from academic expatriates. One hundred and forty-two (142) academic expatriates from all the four institutions under study participated in the quantitative study. The qualitative study collected data relating to an academic skills shortage, disciplines that experience skills shortage, academic labour turnover, employment process and support offered to academic expatriate. Qualitative data was collected through a structured questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. A total of 48 respondents; including, line managers, human resources practitioners and academic expatriates participated in the qualitative study. The results revealed that the institutions under study are confronted by academic skills shortage in almost all academic disciplines especially in the disciplines associated with Science, Engineering and Accounting. As a result difficulties are experienced in attracting academic talent in these fields/disciplines. Therefore, academic talent is brought in from outside the borders of the country. But, delays in work permit application process makes it difficult for these institutions to finalise their recruitment and selection process on time. Furthermore, academic expatriates experience general and interaction adjustment challenges associated with the use of local language and understanding of local culture. However, female academic expatriates were found to be better adjusted in the two areas as compared to male academic expatriates. Moreover, significant mean differences were found between institutions suggesting that academic expatriates based at UNIZULU experience adjustment challenges differently from the academic expatriated based at DUT and UKZN. But, these institutions assist academic expatriates to adjust through their induction programme. Additional to this, the results revealed that the institutions under study are faced with higher labour turnover which could be attributed to uncompetitive salaries for academic staff, poor job satisfaction and stringent academic appointment and promotion criteria. In summation, the study gestured to the need for policy revisions in the area of immigration, human resources and academic administration in the Republic of South Africa.