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31 May 2023

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The Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA) is continuing its mission to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban communities by opening another SMART Skills Centre that will aid in the acceleration of basic digital skills.

Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor, Retief Odendaal has officially opened the centre, which is situated in Gqeberha, in the Eastern Cape Province. CHIETA has partnered with the Gqeberha TVET College, the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA) and the Media Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA) to make this centre a reality.

“CHIETA is leading by example and is pulling out all the stops to stay ahead in the SETA space in terms of innovation and digital transformation. This latest SMART Skills Centre is testimony to CHIETA’s commitment to bring digital skills to the communities that need them the most,” says Odendaal.

“The opening of this centre also speaks to CHIETA’s ability to follow through on big and ambitious projects that are crucial to job creation due to their pivotal role in our country’s digital skills development which will not only meet the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), but will also play a big part in the acceleration of local innovation and enterprise capabilities.”

The SMART Skills Centre is located at the Port Elizabeth TVET College Iqhayiya campus, which is situated in the rural area of Gqeberha, which ensures easy accessibility for the local community and surrounding schools.

As part of the partnership with CHIETA, the college will provide infrastructure and security for the centre, while NEMISA will provide online learning programmes and MICT SETA will be responsible for providing ICT-related programmes. Further programmes will be determined and established once the specific needs of the community have been identified.

“This latest SMART Skills Centre is another tangible step by CHIETA towards our goal of ushering a new dawn for digital skills development and training for rural communities aimed at narrowing the digital divide that is still prevalent in our country,” says CHIETA CEO Yershen Pillay.

“We envisage that the rollout of CHIETA SMART Skills Centres will ultimately contribute towards advancing rural communities’ employability within various economic sectors, as it will enable skills development in line with the demands of emerging technologies and the 4IR.”

Pillay adds that CHIETA is delighted to have taken a leading role in revolutionising digital skills development and training in South Africa by recognising the need to establish and roll out skills development platforms aligned to 4IR focus areas. This will play a major role in the reskilling and enhancing of the sector’s workforce for jobs in the digital era, in response to rapid evolution of technology.

The SMART Skills Centre is equipped with 12 training pods, three virtual reality pods and a smart boardroom. All programmes offered at the centre will free and accessible to nearby rural communities, who will also receive access to social media platforms, free data and career guidance exhibitions. An electronic booking process will ensure that all community members have equal access to the centre and its services.

“Various technology-based programmes will be offered by the centre, including those related to technologies such as robotics and virtual welding, as well as a multitude of skills programmes and e-learning initiatives,” says Pillay.

“As with all other CHIETA SMART Skills Centres, this centre’s uniqueness lies in its accessibility to rural communities and the augmented reality or virtual reality-based training initiatives for artisans. Intelligent systems are fast becoming integrated into every aspect of our lives, which is bringing significant cultural and societal change on a global scale. It is important that we keep up with this trend in order to develop a future-ready workforce.”

Other than offering programmes that will advance skills development for unemployed youth based on various technologies, including block chain, artificial intelligence, software development and data science, the centre will also provide access to online learning platforms that will guide local youth to start up successful and scalable data-driven commercial businesses. This enterprise will ultimately provide technological solutions that respond to needs of the local economy.

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