STUDENTS from rural Sekhukhune in Limpopo will no longer have to travel to other provinces to acquire skills that would qualify them as professional artisans following government’s injection of R146,9 million to construct a technical college in the area.

The Sekhukhune Skills Development Centre which will be built on 115 hectares of land, is set to comprise a retail business hub, engineering and related workshops fully equipped for technical training (trade test centre) and Retail & Agricultural Hub for training, warehousing, farming, agro-processing, and retailing.

The project is a joint venture between the Department of Higher Education and Training and the Wholesale and Retail Sector Education and Training Authority (W&RSETA).

The R146,9-million project which is in its second phase has been allocated R131 million for the construction of the centre, R9 million for capacitation of informal traders, relocation, and construction of trading stalls for 45 informal traders that are operating in the surrounding areas of the centre.

The area, Groblersdal, falls under the Sekhukhune District Municipality which according to 2016 data from the Statistics South Africa, had a population of mover 1,1 million, 32% of which was people under the age of 15 and 62,1% between the ages of 15 and 64.

The number of people with ‘matric and a certificate/diploma’ increased people with a ‘matric and a Bachelor’s’ degree increased from 20 976 in 1999 to 38 566 in 2019. About 4 % of the population have higher education.

Sekhukhune had the highest annual population growth rate in the province at 1,2% between 2009 and 2019. In 2019 there were 689 310 people in the area living in poverty.

Minister of High Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande joins dignitaries during the sod turning ceremony for the Sekhukhune Skills Development Centre.

However the investment which includes R6,9 million to construct an access road to the centre set for conclusion in 2023, is set to contribute to changes in the landscape of the municipality.

Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande said during a sod-turning ceremony for the project in Groblersdal that the initiative is going to change the community and their lives forever.

Nzimande said the centre will contribute massively to the Department of Higher Education and Training’s Decade of Artisan initiated by the government to develop critical artisanal skills.

He said more significantly, the centre, which is one of the unique ones in the country, is being built in a rural area and will serve as an inspiration to rural children that they don’t have to go to the big cities to acquire skills.

“To be constructed in a predominantly rural area, the centre will assist in advancing rural development while also creating sustainable livelihoods for the benefit of the youth of Sekhukhune in particular and Limpopo province at large,” he said.

“We are here to break ground for the construction of this massive Skills Development centre, which will be a trailblazer in this province, and one of a kind as you can see with the buildings that are already coming up,” Nzimande said.

He said the W&R Seta has 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 is a fundamental part of economic development and the two cannot exist in isolation.

The National Skills Development Plan which came into effect on 1 April 2020, replacing the National Skills Development Strategy, has expanded the mandate of SETAs to provide infrastructure support to TVET colleges as part of skills development initiatives within the various sectors within which they operate.

“For sustainability, the project will train SMMEs through the incubation programme by the Sekhukhune TVET college with collaborations established with retailers to sell products produced from the Centre. Additionally, the college plans to develop a multi-purpose centre and a hotel which will generate income for the Centre. Students will receive practical training and will be placed in the multi-purpose centre and the hotel as part an exit strategy,” Nzimande said.

It is also set to to include the training of SMMEs through an incubation programme and collaborations will be established with retailers to sell products from the centre. Additionally, the college plans a multi-purpose centre and hotel which will generate income for the centre. Students are also set to receive practical training and those who graduate from the college will be absorbed into the staff complement.

“As the W&RSETA we are excited with this project, more so because it is our first infrastructure project and is built in an area that is skills depressed. We hope and know that it will stimulate economic activity and skills transfer in the greater Sekhukhune District, Limpopo Province and South African youth at large,” said W&RSETA CEO Tom Mkhwanazi.

Nzimande added that the project is one of many others under the SETA’s R240 million special infrastructure programme for TVET colleges. He said an additional R109 million has been allocated to support newly established Community Education and Training Colleges in all nine provinces.

“This 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. The programme is in line with the goal of government’s National Development Plan which has recognised the importance of investing in artisan programmes to grow our economy,” Nzimande said.

The Learning Programmes to be offered in the Centre, include amongst others:

● National Certificate: Animal Production;

● National Certificate: Poultry Production;

● National Certificate: Accommodation Services;

● National Certificate: Wholesale and Retail Operations: Chain Store Operations;

● National Certificate: Automotive Body Repair and Maintenance;

● Occupational Certificate: Boilermaker;

● Occupational Certificate: Fitter and Turner;

● Further Education and Training Certificate: Electrical Engineering; and the

● Occupational Certificate: Electrician.

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