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Koketso Ratsatsi | 6 August 2023

CHIETA to open third skills centre in northern KZN.

The Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority (CHIETA) is on the verge of opening the third SMART Skills Centre in KwaZulu-Natal in a move to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban areas.

The minister of higher education, science and innovation Blade Nzimande’s vision to equip the youth in villages in becoming digital savvy saw two of the centres being built in Saldanha Bay, Western Cape, and Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape.

The third one will soon be opening its doors in September in Babanango, a small town near Melmoth in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

“Access to digital technology in rural SA has been a topic of concern and effort in recent years. Whilst some gains have been made to bridge the digital divide, there is still a great deal of work to be done as research has revealed that access to the internet in rural communities is a very low 1%,” said CHIETA chief executive Yershen Pillay.

“Our plan is to establish a SMART Skills Centre in all nine provinces and the CHIETA team is working steadily on this flagship project to usher in a new era of skills development and training. The strategic location of the SMART Skills Centres makes them accessible to remote communities that will ultimately benefit from the digitised training programmes for rural masses and ease the cost burden of transport and data for poor learners,” he said.

Pillay said that young people in remote areas are at a disadvantage of not gaining any skills and knowledge in the 4IR world, which are essential for future careers.

“With rural communities unable to function in a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) world, the impact will be felt with job losses and increased unemployment due to a deficiency of the necessary and potential technical skills.”

“This statistic affirms the extent to which young people living in rural reaches of the country are at a disadvantage in terms of gaining skills and knowledge that are critical to future careers across a broad range of sectors and the chemical industries sector is no exception,” Pillay said.

CHIETA hopes this initiative will contribute towards advancing rural communities’ employability within various economic sectors, as it will enable skills development in line with the demands of emerging technologies and the 4IR.

More recently, CHIETA signed a memorandum of understanding with the South African Forest Company Limited (Safcol) that will result in the construction of the first-ever eco-friendly SMART Skills Centre made entirely from timber. The centre will be situated in the Sabie area in Mpumalanga.

“Whilst our determined and steadfast approach to making the SMART Skills Centres a reality has been a key success factor, it is important that we recognise the important role played by the numerous partners that have worked closely with us in the successful establishment of the centres to date.

“This serves to highlight the important role of partnerships in addressing the skills development challenges in the country. And we are only just getting going,” said Pillay.

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


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