Czech deal to boost textile expertise

2008-06-15 00:00

THE provincial Finance and Economic Development Department has concluded an agreement with a Czech Republic university to train hundreds of students studying towards specialised careers in the textile industry.

The deal concluded on Thursday last week by a delegation led by MEC Zweli Mkhize and Pewel Jancik, the director of industry projects and training at Liberec University, is already being hailed as a first step in turning the ailing industry around, and follows the MEC’s visit to the Czech Republic in May this year.

Mkhize said the textile industry in KZN is the second largest employer after the Western Cape’s. It is estimated that some 50 000 people are currently employed in the sector in KwaZulu-Natal.

He said that the government has been concerned about the industry for some time and had identified the shortage of technical expertise as one of the main challenges that needs urgent attention.

“We have been struggling to revive this major employer of workers in the province. This was therefore a timely intervention as training that the students will be getting [at Liberec] is nothing that we can offer in this country,” Mkhize said.

Apart from the shortage of skilled employees the industry is faced with a litany of other challenges, including competition from the east. Mkhize gave the assurance that the government was also looking at ways in which these challenges facing the industry can be addressed, but would not divulge any details.

The training programme for students ranges from two-year post-graduate courses to six-week short courses at the university and will cater for over 130 students over a three year period. A further 1 000 employees are set to benefit from the one week seminars to be conducted in the province.

The details of the selection criteria are still to be defined by the textile cluster, which comprises representatives of various Setas, employers and labour unions.

“The question here is no longer whether the industry will become competitive, but how we are going to grow it even further. The industry will never be competitive unless the experts are driving it,” said an optimistic Mkhize.

bmbanjwa@witness.co.za

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