CHIETA and SAPREF boost skills development in chemical sector


The long-standing partnership between CHIETA, the chemical industries SETA, and SAPREF, South Africa’s largest crude oil refinery, has delivered strong skills development programmes to the sector, at an investment of R6 million by CHIETA.

SAPREF, which is one of the SETA’s top levy paying contributors, is providing opportunities for about 160 students each year through bursaries and learnerships, equipping them for employment at SAPREF or in other companies within the chemical industries sector. These include:

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

The learnerships open doors for matriculants or for students with a TVET qualification, who have a passion for engineering-related careers. and provide the needed competencies for employment in the chemical sector. These 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 CHIETA and SAPREF partnership bursaries support engineering students in chemical, mechanical, and electrical degree courses. CHIETA’s 2020/2021 Integrated Annual Report states that the 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 explained that learners not only benefitted from the funding, but also gained valuable work experience as they were paired with experienced engineers and took on various projects, gaining vital on-the-job training and practical skills.

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.

Thasigan Naidoo, Learning & Development Operations Manager at SAPREF, says CHIETA has 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.”

Yershen Pillay, CHIETA’s CEO, says CHIETA’s ability to meet its mandate is reliant on the collection of skills development levies, and acknowledges the significant contribution that SAPREF and other high-paying contributors make 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,” says Pillay.

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

  • 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

Pillay notes that partnerships are a strong foundation to CHIETA’s annual achievements and milestones. “With the NDP 2030 as our anchor for excellence, we are proud of how we, together with our stakeholders, are able to deliver successful initiatives that meet the performance indicators and targets of our strategic and annual performance plans.”

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