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SA News | 4 September 2023

Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, has commended the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA) on the successful opening of the Babanango SMART Skills Centre, which will provide tech-enabled learning programmes.

Nzimande unveiled the third and largest CHIETA SMART Skills Centre last week. It forms part of CHIETA’s efforts to bridge the digital skills divide and accelerate the development of basic digital skills in rural communities.

The centre will provide tech-enabled learning programmes, including virtual and augmented reality, robotics and the Internet of Things, among others.

Speaking at the launch, Nzimande said the Babanango area was specifically identified for the establishment of the SMART Skills Centre because it is in a deeply rural area of KwaZulu-Natal, without any internet connectivity.

Nzimande said the centre will benefit the local community, including learners, students, job seekers and businesspeople. It will also provide youth with digital skills that will help to meet the demands of industries, which rely on technology to grow their enterprises.

“The centre will advance skills development for the unemployed youth by offering programmes based on various technologies, including Virtual Reality (VR), blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), software development, data science and mobile repairs.

“Through this centre, our unemployed youth will have access to various online learning platforms to start up successful and scalable data-driven commercial businesses that will provide technological solutions. This centre we also help us bridge the digital skills divide between urban and rural communities,” Nzimande said.

The SMART Skills Centre is part of government’s bigger plans to revolutionise digital skills development in South Africa.

The skills centres will further cater for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) development, as they play a crucial role in the growth of the economy. SMMEs make up 34% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which was valued at $358 billion in 2019.

Nzimande said through the National Development Plan (NDP), government has recognised the importance of SMMEs for job creation, innovation and sustainability of the country.

“One of the goals outlined in the NDP was for 90% of new jobs to be created through SMMEs by 2030. This is against the backdrop that our country continues to struggle with the burgeoning problem of unemployment, particularly in its highly youthful population.

“I am more than certain that this project will certainly give our youth and the community at large the opportunity to get or create employment because digital skills are required in most occupations in the 21st century. I am also hoping that this centre will be a catalyst to attract other developmental projects and programmes,” Nzimande said.

The Minister announced that due to the successful implementation of CHIETA SMART Skills Centre, the department has taken a decision to expand this project in all nine provinces of the country.

CHIETA CEO, Yershen Pillay, commended the partners who were involved in this initiative, including the department, Mthashana Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college and Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA), among others.

Pillay noted that this is one of the biggest smart skills centres in the country, which has, among others, cell phone repair skills, and will also provide free data to the community of Babanango.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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