The CEO of the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA) Yershen Pillay is powering ahead with efforts to ensure the entity meets its mandate of helping entrepreneurs reach their goals.
“Entrepreneurship is important for many reasons, from promoting social change to driving innovation. Great entrepreneurs create jobs and contribute to the growing economy. They can also change the way we live and work by spearheading forward-thinking.
“As the CHIETA, we understand the critical role that entrepreneurs and small businesses play thus we are always looking for interventions that will increase their participation in the mainstream economy,” said Pillay.
He noted research reports which indicate that 97.5% of all businesses in SA are SMMEs and contribute a whopping 35% to the GDP of the country’s economy. He noted however data that indicates that 90% of these SMMEs are struggling to survive and that banks’ subsidies to these entities have skyrocketed by more than 50% in the second half of last year.
“Given the role that SMMEs play in job creation and economic transformation, this is data extremely concerning,” he said.
Since its establishment 23-years ago, the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA) has continued to play a vital role in facilitating skills development in South Africa.
The statutory body has also been committed to making sure that the skills needs in the chemical and manufacturing industries are identified and addressed through various training initiatives.
About 70 % of the Skills Development Levies (SDL) are obtained from the chemical industry and distributed back to member companies through Mandatory Grants, Strategic Grants, and Discretionary Grants.
“As a trusted partner in skills development and training for the chemicals sector, we fund the industry for the various occupational programmes as well as certain TVET sector and higher education programmes. In this regard, we are guided by our well-researched sector skills plan that documents the hard-to-fill skills and hard-to-fill positions within the sector,” Pillay said.
“We also work in close collaboration with the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) to design and develop occupational qualifications and trades, quality assurance, accreditation, monitoring as well as certification of competent learners. Our financial performance has indeed been outstanding; we have achieved unqualified/clean audited opinions from the Auditor General of South Africa for five consecutive years,” he added.
The main stakeholders that the CHIETA serves are public higher education institutions, CHIETA-accredited training providers, skills development providers, small-medium enterprises, CBOs, CBCs, NPOs, NGOs, and Co-ops that are within the chemicals sector and government institutions.
As part of its mandate, the CHIETA recently announced that it will provide two South African universities with R1.64-million to support chemical industry research, innovation and work-integrated learning initiatives, as well as contribute towards curbing youth unemployment.
The institutions are the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University and the Vaal University of Technology. The SETA runs several Strategic Projects and Grants funding to provide support as well as monitoring and evaluation assistance to its stakeholders.
The projects aimed at assisting their stakeholders include mandatory levy payments to employer companies in the chemicals sector in the form of Discretionary Grant Funding and Mandatory Grants. To receive these grants, employers must have submitted a WSP/ATR and be compliant with the CHIETA Grants policy. The levies are paid by the CHIETA only when the companies fulfill the requirements to receive Mandatory Grants.
Pillay also discussed the significant role of SMMEs in the South African economy, especially during the current pandemic climate.
“There’s growing evidence to substantiate the notion that, with added training support and mentorship, including business financing, small businesses are likely to survive, grow and create employment opportunities for the learnership programme graduates.”
“That is why we, as the Chemical SETA, have taken deliberate action to disburse Discretionary Grants in support of an integrated small business development programme, which culminated in the establishment of our strategic partnership with the University of Johannesburg’s Centre of Entrepreneurship in 2020,” he continued.
In the previous financial year, the SETA assisted many entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. Layla Hasan Hasen, a businesswoman based in Johannesburg, is one of the beneficiaries who received assistance from the CHIETA in establishing and building her company.
Hasen is the owner of Azra Naturals, a company that specialises in manufacturing natural skincare products. The CHIETA helped to grow her small business through their Small Business Enrichment Programme at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).
“Through the turnaround strategy we developed during our time in this programme, our business has seen growth. Today our products are being sold on the Faithful online platform,” Hasen said.
Nokuthula Fihla, a qualified Biochemist, is another dynamic female entrepreneur with a passion for home and personal care products, that has received support from the CHIETA.
“My business partner received a lot of training support through the CHIETA funded University of Johannesburg (UJ) Programme, and today he has become a confident young man who understands the business better,” Fihla said.
“After we started the business in 2018, in 2019, we saw negative growth. For the first time in 2020, with the support of the CHIETA, we saw positive growth and, we were also able to make some profit. This growth was influenced by our ability to expand our product range and by offering the market quality laboratory tested sanitisers,” Fihla said.
CHIETA has recently announced that it has put aside R1.6 million to fund a research project that will fast-track the Fourth Industrial Revolution and innovation in the pharmaceutical, technology, and fuel cell batteries disciplines.
The CEO mentioned that the organisation’s reason for funding the project, to be conducted by two South African universities, is to ensure that job opportunities in the sector are created, and poverty is eradicated. For more details – www.chieta.org.za