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History as Chieta opens smart skills centre in SA

Aims to bridge digital skills divide, aid development

Minister of higher education Dr Blade Nzimande.
Minister of higher education Dr Blade Nzimande.
Image: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

The Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (Chieta) has made history by opening the first Smart skills centre in the country.

The R3m centre in Saldanha Bay, Western Cape, was launched last week with an aim to bridge the digital skills divide and accelerate the development of basic digital skills for a future-fit workplace, Chieta, a Sector Education and Training Authority said.

It comes just two years after minister of higher education, science and innovation Blade Nzimande articulated a vision for Smart Skills Centres to be established in all parts of the country in 2020.

"The Smart Skills Centres were planned to usher in a new era of skills development and training that would be located within rural communities and able to offer digitised training programmes for rural masses," said Chieta CEO Yershen Pillay.

"The Chieta Smart Skills Centre is but one of nine Smart centres that will be developed across the country by Chieta. The centre’s services are free and include access to data and training courses aimed at job seekers, business start-ups and small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) that wish to grow their operations. The centre is fully automated and features equipment which is in line with 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) training requirements.

"The Chieta Smart Skills Centre is a game-changer in skills development and training. Rural communities will now have 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.

“What makes the centre unique is its accessibility to rural communities and the virtual-reality or VR-based training for artisans. The Smart centre will include a digital boardroom for SMMEs and cooperatives to conduct meetings with potential clients.

"The centre will also offer skills programmes in the areas of 5G cellular networking, data analytics, technopreneurship, Java programming and cybersecurity. CHIETA has committed to enrolling 50,000 learners for digital skills programmes through its Saldanha Bay Smart Skills Centre by March 2025. This will ensure that people are equipped with the necessary skills to excel in the workplace,” said Pillay.

Nzimande has congratulated Chieta's visionary leadership for conceiving the idea of such a centre and for locating it with the Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone.

"This Smart Skills Centre is a monumental step towards SA’s digital skills development not only to meet the demands of the 4IR, but also to accelerate local innovation and enterprise capabilities, which will drive job creation and economic growth.

"There is a general consensus that more and more companies are beginning to embark on what is called a 'digital transformation journey'. 

"It is therefore by design that Chieta and the Freeport Saldanha Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) recognised the need to prepare our youth and small medium enterprises by developing their digital readiness through tech-enabled learning programmes such as virtual and augmented reality, robotics, and the internet of things, among others.

"To achieve this, a host environment in a form of a technology infested centre where technology, talent and creativity interface is essential. Such an infrastructure will responds to what we came to know as the 4IR," Nzimande said.

Media, Information and Communication Technologies (MICT) Seta CEO Matome Madibana said: “The decision to collaborate on digital transformation initiatives and implement cross-sectoral skills development initiatives, responsive to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is part of the MICT Seta’s drive to massify digital skills and is in line with our mandate to grow the pool of future skills in the country.

“The 35 4IR occupationally directed qualifications have been developed by the MICT Seta to address skills shortages in various streams, including cybersecurity, Java Script, 5G, technopreneur, the Internet of Things, software development, cloud computing, design thinking, artificial intelligence and robotic processing automation, among others.”


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