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Facility a game-changer for development and training

Smart skills centre launched in rural KZN

Noxolo Sibiya Journalist
A SMART skills centre was opened in Babanango in Melmorth, northern KwaZulu-Natal.
A SMART skills centre was opened in Babanango in Melmorth, northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Image: Supplied

The people of Babanango, a small rural town near Melmoth in northern KwaZulu-Natal, now have access to the internet and tech-driven entrepreneurship training after a smart skills centre was launched in the area.

The Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority (Chieta) joined by minister of higher education and training Blade Nzimande opened the largest smart skills centre in a rural area.

“This smart skills centre is a key step towards our country’s digital skills development, not only to meet the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution [4IR], but also to accelerate local innovation and enterprise capabilities, which will drive job creation,” Nzimande said.  

“I am pleased to note that Chieta has recognised the need to prepare our youth and small business sector by developing their digital readiness through tech-enabled learning programmes, such as virtual and augmented reality, robotics, and the internet of things among others.” 

Chieta CEO Yershen Pillay said this was the third smart skills centre to be opened, adding that the Seta was passionate about ensuring that the digital divide is bridged, particularly in rural communities. 

“And as a Seta, we are passionate about the role we need to play to ensure that rural communities are provided access to digital technology that can make a difference in their lives. Chieta has taken the lead with its strategic plan that considers the need to establish and roll out skills development and training platforms aligned to 4IR focus areas that will ultimately reskill and enhance the sector’s workforce for jobs in the digital era, in response to rapid evolution of technology,” Pillay said.

He said the centre offered a unique experience with virtual reality-based training for artisans and will be equipped with three virtual reality pods – 37 workstations, a smart boardroom, a robotics centre and a “chill” area. 

Various technology-based programmes will be linked to the centre, including robotics and virtual welding, as well as a multitude of skills programmes and e-learning initiatives.  

The centre will focus on enterprises, individuals, schools and technical vocational education and training (TVET) colleges with a specific emphasis on rural youth. 

“The Chieta smart skills centre is a game-changer in terms of skills development and training. Fundamentally, this will give rural communities access to free data and Wi-Fi services, as well as basic digital skills and 4IR-related training, thereby ensuring that no one is left behind in the digital skills revolution,” Pillay said. 

He said the smart skills centre would advance skills development for unemployed youth by offering programmes based on various technologies, including block chain, artificial intelligence, software development, data science and mobile repairs. It will provide free data and access to internet services including a cellphone repair training station to train budding entrepreneurs. 

“Furthermore, access to various online learning platforms will nurture unemployed youth to start up successful and scalable data-driven commercial business that will provide technological solutions responding to needs of the Babanango local economy. 

“The manufacturing industry is fast becoming increasingly technology driven. As such, we want to ensure that people have the requisite skills to use technology confidently and utilise its benefits when solving problems,” Pillay said. 

sibiyan@sowetan.co.za 


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