In a bid to tackle unemployment and bridge the skills gap in South Africa’s Western Cape region, the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT) has initiated the Skills Development and Innovation Programme. This comprehensive initiative, in partnership with various companies, aims to provide young unemployed individuals with on-the-job skills training and invaluable workplace experience. As part of this program, 23 learners have been placed in a skills development initiative at K-Way, a renowned clothing manufacturing company, and Green Thread Manufacturers, responsible for producing popular clothing brands such as Poetry and Old Khaki.
During a recent visit to K-Way and Green Thread factories, Western Cape MEC of Finance and Economic Opportunities, Mireille Wenger, accompanied by DEDAT officials, met with the learners to witness firsthand the impact of the program on their lives. Wenger highlighted the importance of the partnership between industry, academia, and unemployed youth, emphasizing the need to address the demand for skilled employees while providing opportunities for those seeking employment.
The Skills and Innovation program, in collaboration with the private sector, operates various initiatives in the Cape Town metropolitan area, including Atlantis, as well as in rural towns such as Darling and Caledon. Through funding monthly stipends, supplemented by participating companies, the program offers unemployed young people a combination of structured or accredited training and on-the-job experiential workplace exposure ranging from 4 to 12 months.
Participating companies are required to offer permanent or contract work to 70% to 80% of the trained individuals, depending on their specific needs, with some cases achieving 100% employment placement. In the financial year 2023/2034, the project aims to support up to 200 beneficiaries, providing them with workplace experiential learning and training tailored to different occupational fields and employers.
MEC Wenger expressed her satisfaction with the program’s outcomes and the dedication of the young interns at both K-Way and Green Thread factories. She commended their impressive work and designs, as well as the factories’ commitment to a people-first philosophy and the pursuit of a better future.
K-Way’s Sewing School, an integral part of Cape Union Mart Group, focuses on equipping unemployed individuals with trade skills to become machinists within the factory. New recruits undergo a year of comprehensive training, learning everything from the basics of fabrics to efficient machine operation and the garment production processes within the factory.
Green Thread Manufacturers, part of Cape Union Mart Group, plays a significant role in the growth of local clothing design and production. The company aims to produce 65% of its products locally by 2030 and has already created over 300 jobs in the manufacturing field. Belinda Wolffe, Cape Union Mart Group Manufacturing HR Manager, expressed the company’s commitment to addressing the high unemployment rate in the country and how the partnership with DEDAT will provide critical skills and knowledge to learners while fostering future employment opportunities.
The Western Cape Government’s Growth for Jobs Strategy, a key economic action plan, highlights “Improved Access to Economic Opportunities and Employability” as one of its seven priority focus areas. MEC Wenger emphasized the government’s commitment to creating a thriving society where capable and economically active citizens can access economic opportunities and employment. The strategy aims to develop the skills of the future workforce while reducing barriers and increasing access to information, competencies, and employment opportunities.
MEC Wenger concluded by emphasizing the government’s dedication to increasing employment, particularly among the youth, through internships and partnerships with the private sector and tertiary institutions. By addressing the skills gap and providing ample opportunities, the Western Cape Government aims to empower the youth and contribute to a more prosperous future for the region.
In summary, the Skills Development and Innovation Programme in collaboration with K-Way and Green Thread Manufacturers showcases a commendable effort by the Western Cape Government to address unemployment and skills shortages. By providing structured training and workplace experience, the initiative not only equips young individuals with valuable skills but also opens doors to long-term employment opportunities. The success of this program reflects the government’s commitment to fostering economic growth and creating a more inclusive society in the Western Cape.