To address a widening digital skills gap in South Africa, the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (Chieta) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone (SBIDZ) Licencing Company.
This was done to establish a new, fully automated smart skills centre in the region, which will focus on basic digital skills and is aimed at addressing the digital skills divide in the district, as well as helping surrounding businesses and rural community members to learn technology-related skills.
The MoU outlines the scope of the collaboration, the logistics of the training programmes and the estimated timeline for implementation.
The initiative will provide considerable scope and functionality to the SBIDZ small and medium enterprise collaboration initiative, which aims to establish a competitive oil and gas maritime sector.
Chieta CEO Yershen Pillay says the centre, which will be set up next to the Saldana Bay IDZ office, is a pilot project of the type Chieta anticipates establishing in more rural communities across South Africa.
“A big drive for setting up centres like this is the potential they hold in helping small and medium-sized enterprises in the surrounding areas. Technology that we may take for granted – such as computers, printers and Internet access – will now be available for emerging enterprises in the Saldanha Bay area,” he says.
Pillay adds that it is widely understood that, in the rapidly digitising world, South Africa faces a deficit of the skills needed to embrace the opportunities presented by technological advancements.
In this regard, he believes it is the responsibility of sector education and training authorities to angle skills development opportunities towards digital skills initiatives, in line with the government’s future skills strategy.
In a rapidly digitising economy, the partnership between Chieta and the SBIDZ will help equip people with the skills and expertise to function productively in the economy.
As such, surrounding businesses and community hubs, including schools and technical vocational education and training colleges will benefit from the centre, gaining access to a variety of free digital learning programmes.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution era requires every individual and entity to be competitive. It is vital that we focus attention on youth and emerging enterprises and do what we can to give these individuals a boost so that they are equipped to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital economy,” he says.