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Driving Forward STEM Development For Young Women

  • 3 min read

A stronger focus should be placed on STEM related subjects and fields to alleviate blockages in South Africa’s talent pipeline. This is the view of  the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA), as the country’s youth unemployment rate stands at an alarming 43.5%* for the first quarter of 2021.

CHIETA believes skills investment remains a sustainable solution particularly in areas such as STEM development which is aligned with advances in Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies. 

“STEM is responding to the changing technological world which means students should be equipped to operate in work environments that are driven by 4IR development.  At CHIETA we understand the imperative of upskilling the chemicals industry. We need to overcome polarisation of the labour market opportunities between high- and low-skill jobs, unemployment and underemployment especially among young people,” says Yershen Pillay, CEO of CHIETA.

In order to drive forward the country’s STEM skill development efforts, workable solutions need to be put in place. As we near this year’s Mandela Day, Pillay says it remains imperative for the country to provide equal access to education that keeps trend with a changing job sector and economic demands.  Science, technology, engineering and mathematics knowledge is associated with many of the fastest growing occupations around the world.

To this end, CHIETA is rolling out several interventions that will accelerate STEM development and the country’s 4IR readiness posture.

CHIETA’s investment in career guidance projects stand at more than nine million rand of which a considerable amount is dedicated towards preparing and providing learners with the skills they require to align with 4IR.

As part of this development, the training authority is also reaching out to girls who are grossly underrepresented in STEM areas, providing them with funding to embark on studies and subsequent careers in related fields.

According to Pillay, “ According to a recent UNESCO report, only 35 per cent of STEM students in higher education globally are women. To address this imbalance, we will be launching a dedicated STEM education programme for young girls with the outcome of increasing the participation of young girls in STEM from 35% to 50% by 2025. This will be one of your new initiatives that seeks to educate and empower young women”.

“Our STEM-related training programmes and grants not only drive student development but also aim to establish educators that can assist in advancing these subjects, establishing a firm foundation for success in an ever-developing technological world,” Pillay adds.

Additionally, CHIETA recently donated 1000 devices to matric learners which came preloaded Whiz software, therefore eliminating data costs typically absorbed by learners.

“Our partnership with iWhiz came at a very opportune time when organisations are being called upon to help close the digital divide that is widening in our education system due to Covid-19 and the lockdowns that have been introduced to lessen the impact of the pandemic,’” concludes Pillay.