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Skills Development News South Africa

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#YouthMonth: Human capital is the beating heart of Coega

The Coega Development Corporation (CDC) is not only creating infrastructure; it's also creating a future for the Eastern Cape. In 2023, investor income in the area increased to R18,9bn from R14,3bn in 2021. A key part of this growth and vision for the future is the Coega Human Capital Solutions (HCS) facility, a unique centre that aims to close the skills gap, boost local employment, and ensure the longevity of the Coega Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
Coega SEZ is driven by a commitment to creating opportunities for the youth in nearby communities.
Coega SEZ is driven by a commitment to creating opportunities for the youth in nearby communities.

The HCS operates as part labour broker and part training facility to provide resources for tenants and clients within the SEZ. One of those clients, Stellantis – the world’s third largest automotive manufacturer by volume – and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) in 2024 reached important milestones that will lead to a potentially lucrative joint venture in the automotive zone.

The investment, estimated at R3bn, is expected to generate many employment opportunities in the Eastern Cape. CDC will provide the land on which the factory will be constructed and has already started preparing the site for the beginning of construction.

Unlike traditional projects with a limited lifespan, Coega's SEZ is a long-term development. This has allowed the CDC to invest in purpose-built infrastructure like the HCS facility.

The facility serves as a conduit between the local community and employers, ensuring a streamlined recruitment process and best-fit matching for job seekers.

But the HCS facility is more than just a recruitment centre. It houses a state-of-the-art skills development centre, offering training in various trades, including welding, electrical work, plumbing, and painting.

Occupational training

The centre's focus on occupational qualifications ensures that graduates are equipped with the skills needed to meet industry demands.

David Lambaatjeen, acting head of Coega SDC.
David Lambaatjeen, acting head of Coega SDC.

"What we have is your electrical engineering, we've got your welding and fabrication, plumbing, your bricklayers, you've also got your painting, decor, wood machining, carpentry, as well as your boiler making. So altogether we've got 10 workshops and eight trades," elaborates David Lambaatjeen, acting head of Coega SDC.

Lambaatjeen further explains that the centre has recently expanded its offerings to include part qualifications in renewable energy.

"However, what we've also acquired now lately was the part qualifications, which ranges between (NQF) level 2 to level 4. We've also got a qualification here, which is a part qualification for renewable energy workshop assistant, which is packed at level 4 with 36 credits. So that's about a six-month training qualification."

By providing access to training and employment opportunities, HCS has empowered individuals and contributed to the economic development of the region.

Localised labour

The centre's commitment to localising labour and skills development has also fostered a sense of ownership and pride within the community.

Lambaatjeen highlights the centre's success, stating, "If we had 100 learners here for the 3 years, I would say roughly about 36-38% of them do get absorbed."

Learners preparing for their electrical trade test
Learners preparing for their electrical trade test

The Coega model is not just about building a successful SEZ; it's about building a sustainable future for the region.

By investing in human capital, the CDC is ensuring that the benefits of the SEZ are shared by all, and that the project leaves a lasting legacy for generations to come.

It's a model that other SEZs can learn from, demonstrating how strategic investment in human capital can drive economic growth, empower communities, and ensure the long-term success of large-scale projects.

About Lindsey Schutters

Lindsey is the editor for ICT, Construction&Engineering and Energy&Mining at Bizcommunity

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