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A boost for skills development in the chemical sector

A graph showing formulas and fictional figures of petroleum stats.

The learnerships open doors for matriculants and those with a TVET qualification, who have a passion for engineering-related careers. Pic: Supplied.

Published Jan 12, 2022


Durban - A long-standing partnership between the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (Chieta) and South African Petroleum Refineries (Sapref), has delivered strong skills development programmes to the sector at an investment of R6 million by Chieta.

One of the Sector Education and Training Authorities’ (Seta) top levy paying contributors and South Africa’s largest crude oil refinery, Sapref is providing opportunities for 160 students each year through bursaries and learnerships. This is to equip them for employment at Sapref and other companies within the sector.

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The programme includes:

  • Bursaries for qualifying students studying engineering at a tertiary institution.
  • Chemical operations learnerships – NQF 1-3.
  • Artisan-related learnerships – NQF 2-4.

The learnerships opens doors for matriculants and those with a TVET qualification who have a passion for engineering-related careers, and provides the needed competencies for employment in the chemical sector. The learnerships have a duration of one year for each NQF level.

Learnership participants receive monthly stipends, an NQF-aligned qualification based on theoretical classroom training, workshop practical training and workplace training. Learners are assigned to an artisan or process technician in the Sapref process plants, where they gain practical on-the-job training.

The bursaries partnership between Chieta and Sapref supports engineering students in chemical, mechanical, and electrical degree courses.

According to Chieta’s 2020/2021 Integrated Annual Report, students who were supported in the year under review underwent structured engineering training at Sapref thus adding to the talent pool of engineers in the industry.

The report states that learners not only benefited from the funding, but also gained valuable work experience as they were paired with experienced engineers and took on various projects. They also gain vital on-the-job training and practical skills.

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Thasigan Naidoo, learning and development operations manager at Sapref, said that Chieta had provided valuable assistance in driving many of the learning projects offered by Sapref.

“This partnership is assisting youth to gain competencies for employment, and it has strengthened my expertise. The chemical industry is a huge contributor to the country’s GDP, offering a powerful engine of innovation and creativity, and adding to economic growth and continued upskilling.”

Bursary students receive monthly allowances, a laptop, meal and book allowances, full payment of tuition and residence fees, and work experience during vacations at Sapref.

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Chieta CEO Yershen Pillay said that Chieta’s ability to meet its mandate is reliant on the collection of skills development levies, and acknowledged the significant contribution that Sapref and other high-paying contributors made to skills development in the sector.

“Our role is to facilitate skills development and ensure that skills needs are identified and addressed through training initiatives, which are vital for the success and sustainability of key industries,” said Pillay.

Chieta collects skills development levies and delivers the following services back to the industry:

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  • Mandatory Grants - paid to members to fund their in-house skills development programmes.
  • Discretionary Grants - allocated towards initiatives that respond to the need for priority skills.
  • Strategic Projects - aligned to Chieta’s goals and relevant educational needs.