The Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (Chieta) is pursuing a number of strategic interventions as part of its mandate to train and develop skills for learners, as well as employees in the chemicals industry, CEO Khathutshelo Ramukumba said during a media event, in Johannesburg, on Tuesday.
Chieta is a statutory body established under the Skills Development Act, to facilitate skills development in the chemicals and manufacturing industries and to ensure that skills needs are identified and addressed through various training initiatives.
Ramukumba noted that this assisted in tackling the country’s triple issues of poverty, inequality and unemployment; as well as the challenges and implications of being part of a globalised world.
In responding to its mandate from government, Chieta structures its offering for both the 'pipeline' and workplace environment.
Firstly, for the pipeline, this entails targeting young people going through the education and schooling phase.
Chieta intervenes in the basic education phase by proving career guidance for students to help them make correct subject choices for a career in the chemicals industry; and also supports skills requirements that students will require for a future in the sector.
Ramukumba explained that the organisation took a “biased” approach in this regard, targeting youth in rural and impoverished areas, as, unlike their counterparts in urbanised and modern cities, they lack access to technology and opportunities.
He highlighted a particular project that Chieta has executed well in this regard as one in the Free State, where the organisation provides support to high school learners until their matric exams, especially in science and mathematics – with this having produced top performing learners.
Ramukumba said this had worked particularly well because it had buy-in from school principals and Chieta had been undertaking it for three years and had had time to work out the problems.
Chieta had since extended the programme to Limpopo; however, there had been some challenges with institutional arrangements, Ramukumba noted. Nevertheless, the organisation is redirecting its efforts to ensure the success of the programme.
Moreover, it plans to eventually extend this programme to all provinces.
Chieta also provides bursaries to those wanting to pursue training in the chemicals industry.
Further to basic education, Ramukumba indicated that the country faced a major challenge of people not in education, employment or training, the so-called NEETs, with urgent interventions required.
He noted that Chieta and other sector education and training authorities (Setas) bear a large responsibility in this regard, as they can facilitate access for the unemployed to the working world by creating skills.
He lamented that the country’s economy was not capitalising on its asset of youth; with a high number of NEETs, despite many of these youths having completed matric or further education.
In this space, Chieta has interventions in the vein of learnerships, internships and work integrated training.
One such programme entails working with technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges and the private sector to ensure the former develops a curriculum and training that aligns to what companies are looking for, so that when learners graduate, they are employable.
Further to these interventions in the pipeline, Chieta also intervenes in the workplace.
Ramukumba indicated that, with the organisation’s funding coming from companies in the industry, it needed to ensure that its work justifies this spending.
Training and skills development must, therefore, benefit employers and must ensure upward mobility of employees already in the workplace.
To engender this, Chieta undertakes work-integrated learning and engages all the stakeholders, including trade unions, in a comprehensive intervention.
Ramukumba indicated that further to these interventions in the pipeline and workplace, Chieta was going beyond its mandate and pursuing deliberate interventions in the economy to assist the country in creating a better society for all.
He noted that the organisation did this with full cognisance of the fact that the country was affected by geopolitics and, to safeguard itself against this, must become self-sufficient in producing more of what it requires locally and being less dependent on imports.
In this regard, Chieta is aiming to create more small, medium-sized and microenterprises (SMMEs) within the chemicals sector, with Ramukumba highlighting these as vital to growing an economy.
As part of this, Chieta was also pursuing transformation, with the sector largely untransformed since democracy, Ramukumba indicated – in terms of racial, gender and localisation.
Moving forward, Chieta is aiming to work with partners that align to the transformation agenda – thereby allowing women-, black- and locally-owned businesses to “find expression” in the sector, said Ramukumba.
Moreover, another area of critical importance for the organisation is the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and its training in all spheres will be geared towards readying workers for this, Ramukumba said.