The National Skills Development Plan goals to support the growth of the public college system as one of the key solutions to the country’s skills challenges in South Africa received a boost with the Wholesale and Retail Sector Education and Training Authority(W&RSETA) investing over R131 million towards the construction of the Sekhukhune Skills Development Centre in Limpopo.
Speaking at the Sekhukhune Skills Development Centre So-Turning event on Thursday, Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) Minister Blade Nzimande said the facility will produce one of the highly scarce skills in South Africa of artisans. “This is only one of many projects under the SETA’s R240 million special infrastructure programme for TVET colleges. An additional R109 million has been allocated to support our newly established Community Education and Training Colleges in all nine provinces of our country,” said Nzimande.
The minister said that the construction of this centre will greatly benefit the work of our Decade of the Artisan programme which is headed by the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation whose goal is to produce 30 000 artisans annually by 2030. He said that the programme was in line with the goal of government’s National Development Plan which recognised the importance of investing in artisan programmes to grow South Africa’s economy. “Through this centre, our students will no longer need to travel to Indlela Trade Centre in Gauteng for their trade tests to qualify as artisans. This is a significant milestone in the delivery of our skills development programmes as it will increase and improve our capacity to produce artisans.”
“You will leave the college with skills that employers are looking for – TVET colleges produce highly employable graduates as research has shown. There are many opportunities for artisans, for employment and most importantly to create your own jobs.”
From a delivery perspective, this project was aligned with the government's District Delivery Model that sought to bring services closer to people. This was important in addressing urbanisation where young people migrated to the cities to compete for limited opportunities instead of creating their own opportunities in their rural and township communities. “We need to encourage young people to grow their local economies and projects such as these are enablers,” said Nzimande.
He said that the W&RSETA had not stopped at the construction of the centre but considered the greater benefit to socio-economic development of the people of Sekhukhune highlighting that skills development was a fundamental part of economic development and the two could not exist in isolation.
The SETA will capacitate 45 informal traders who are operating in the surrounding areas of the centre in financial management to help them improve how they operate their businesses. This is directly aligned to the mandate of the W&RSETA which implemented a programme to capacitate 2 400 informal traders every year. Informal traders in Sekhukhune will benefit from this support from the W&RSETA with an investment of R9 million which will also include the construction of trading stalls. Furthermore, through this project, a traffic circle and access road will be constructed leading to the centre. This infrastructure project will be funded at a budget of R6.9 million.
About six local businesses have benefited from the project with 267 jobs created. Nzimande said according to the reports he received, 30 percent of the project budget had benefited local businesses. In the current phases of the project, at least 280 job opportunities have been created and more were expected. These phases are benefiting at least 12 local businesses.
W&RSETA board chairperson Reggie Sibiya said the Sekhukhune Skills Development was visionary because it was thought this was before the National Skills Development Plan which came into effect a year later, making it a requirement for SETAs to provide infrastructural support for TVET colleges. The multi-million centre that will be built here will have a retail and agricultural hub, engineering workshops and an administration block. “Even at a time when our funds were constrained due to the impact of Covid-19, this was one of the projects that the SETA prioritised because we are intentional in building for the future. The sacrifice that has been made now will bear fruit for many decades to come and change many lives,” said Sibiya.
“We have not only stopped at constructing a building that will benefit students. We have also considered the sustainability of the project to extend to the community at large and will be engaging our companies, the AgriSETA, FoodBevSETA, merSETA as well as other government agencies to ensure that this centre reaches its full potential. Our focus is on the retail value chain where we will have agricultural produce and livestock from this centre and processed for the retail market. Collaboration will be needed to realise this vision,” he said.
Organic produce would be grown from the rural community of Sekhukhune and sold across South Africa, and possibly outside the country’s borders.