The Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA) has unveiled a smart skills centre inBabanango, a small town in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).
In a statement, CHIETA says the centre is the third and “largest” it has opened in the country.
The new facility aims to advance digital skills development for young people in that community. It offers tech-enabled learning programmes in virtual and augmented reality, robotics and the internet of things, as well as cellphone repairs training, according to the organisation.
Furthermore, young people and community members will have free access to the internet and boardroom space for start-ups and small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).
The CHIETA Smart Skills Centre in Babanango was officially opened by higher education, science and innovation minister Dr Blade Nzimande.
He indicates Babanango was selectedbecause it is in a deeply rural area of KZN, without any internet connectivity. Nzimande believes the centre will benefit the local community, including learners, students, job-seekers and businesspeople.
“The centre will advance skills development for the unemployed youth by offering programmes based on various technologies, including virtual reality, blockchain, artificial intelligence, software development, data science and mobile repairs,” says the minister.
“Through this centre, our unemployed youth will have access to various online learning platforms to start up successful and scalable data-driven commercial businesses that will provide technological solutions. This centre we also help us bridge the digital skills divide between urban and rural communities.”
The centreforms part of government’s plans to revolutionise digital skills development in South Africa. It will further cater for SMME development, notes Nzimande.
Through the National Development Plan (NDP), government has recognised the importance of SMMEs for job creation, innovation and sustainability of the country, he explains.
“One of the goals outlined in the NDP was for 90% of new jobs to be created through SMMEs by 2030. This is against the backdrop that our country continues to struggle with the burgeoning problem of unemployment, particularly in its highly-youthful population.
“I am more than certain that this project will give our youth and the community at large the opportunity to get or create employment, because digital skills are required in most occupations in the 21st century. I am also hoping this centre will be a catalyst to attract other developmental projects and programmes.”
The minister states that due to the successful implementation, his department has taken a decision to expand the project to all of the country’s nine provinces.