Chemical industry to bridge digital skills gap

Smart Skills Centre takes training to rural areas

Amanda Maliba Entertainment reporter
Chieta is tackling the skills mismatch in the chemical sector.
Chieta is tackling the skills mismatch in the chemical sector.
Image: Supplied

The Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (Chieta) is determined to address the mismatch between the skills in demand and the skills being developed within the chemical industry of SA.

This misalignment, according to Chieta’s CEO Yershen Pillay, has resulted in a huge skills gap across the board. He said the issue needs a greater engagement by all relevant participants, ranging from the government, the private sector, and training institutions, in order to positively impact on SA’s high level of unemployment.

The 10 skills in demand, identified in Chieta’s stakeholders’ workplace skills plans in 2022, are chemical engineer,  mechanical engineer, environmental scientist, chemist, retail pharmacist, industrial engineer,  industrial pharmacist, SHEQ practitioner, medical product sales representative and pharmaceutical product sales representative. 

The above does not take future skills needs into account.

"SA companies are faced with importing skills from Europe and Asia because specific and high-quality welding skills are in scarce supply. In SA, we do not lack general welding skills, we have a sufficient supply of welders to meet the demand, what we lack are specific types of welding skills such as underwater welding and aluminum coded welding where demand far outstrips the supply,” says Pillay.

Chieta's CEO Yershen Pillay
Chieta's CEO Yershen Pillay
Image: Peter Mogaki

“It is becoming clear that digital savvy artisans are also in short supply. SA needs a pool of digitally savvy artisans such as mechanical fitters who understand the fundamentals of coding as the factory floor becomes increasingly automated and digitised.”

And in terms of specific skills in demand among SMMEs and start-ups in the chemical industry, a recent study by Chieta revealed a skills gap in management coaching, management and entrepreneurial skills, and mentorship.

These above skills incorporate agility, governance, innovation, leadership, performance management, R&D leadership, numerical, packaging, problem solving, programming, project management, communication, negotiating, and marketing.

Chieta’s skills development initiatives are increasingly being designed to address specific skills mismatches, and a focus area for it is digital skills development.

Pillay said: “The more our wider skills development shifts from traditional to digital skills training, the more likely it will be to see an increased absorption of trainees and artisans by industry.”

One of the initiatives within the digital skills development category is Chieta’s Smart Skills Centre programme, which is bridging the digital skills divide by taking training directly to rural communities.

The first Smart Skills Centre will open in Saldanha Bay, Western Cape, this year and is aimed at providing access to basic digital skills in 4IR-related occupations to local communities. Chieta is investing a further R50m in Smart Skills Centres across the country by 2025.

"Chieta’s efforts to deliver relevant and quality training in line with the needs of the chemical industry sectors is continuing through a range of offerings and funding windows, which include work integrated learning (WIL), bursaries and learnerships.

“We remain committed to maintaining a stakeholder-centric approach to our evolving skills development initiatives, and to strengthening our capacity to adapt to the rapid pace of change in skills needs within our industry.

"At the same time, we strongly encourage wider engagement between all stakeholders, government, other SETAs, and training institutions across the board to ensure that closing scarce skills gaps is contributing to job creation in SA,” said Pillay.

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