In a bid to revive the textile industry in the province, the KwaZulu-Natal department of finance and economic development will send 10 students to a top Czech university next week.
The initiative is a partnership that also involves the provincial education department.
Yesterday provincial MEC for finance and economic development Zweli Mkhize, who is also the leader of government business, said the decision to send the students abroad was taken in a bid to revive the industry and ensure that it survived.
Mkhize said KwaZulu-Natal contributes about 40percent to the national textile industry, but added that it was also in danger of collapsing.
"Most firms have been forced to shut down or are shutting down," he said. "That does not mean we have to throw in the towel.
"We have realised that there is a big challenge in that sector, hence our partnership with the Czech Republic to allow our students to acquire the necessary skills."
Mkhize said for the textile industry to survive and create more jobs, as in China and India, it was critical for the country to equip people with the necessary technical skills. He said if enough South Africans acquired the necessary technical skills the industry could grow.
"The textile industry is very competitive, especially with China making inroads all over the world," Mkhize said. We need to catch up. I hope our students can be a catalyst for that growth," .
KwaZulu-Natal's MEC for education Ina Cronjé said there was a wrong perception that there was a shortage of jobs in this country. Instead, Cronjé said, the problem was a shortage of skills.
"As we know, South Africa has a serious shortage of technical skills," Cronjé said. Something serious needs to be done to address the situation.
"If you are talking of economic development you are talking about education. There can never be economic development without the necessary education."
Martin Pohl, the Czech Republic's ambassador, said this would not only fill the skills shortage gap but will also bring about development.
Sibusiso Dlamini of Mtubatuba, a chemical technology student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said he was happy to get this "lifetime opportunity" to study overseas.
"I want to urge black students to take up science courses because there are very few blacks in the scientific and technical professions."