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CHIETA intends to expand the hydrogen economy with skills

By , Africa editor
South Africa , 11 Mar 2024
CHIETA CEO Yershen Pillay.
CHIETA CEO Yershen Pillay.

South Africa’s Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority (CHIETA) will register new qualifications and provide specific skills training to help expand the green hydrogen economy.

According to CHIETA CEO Yershen Pillay, this will include courses in hydrogen safety, storage, and project management.

This comes as South Africa is aiming to position itself as a globally competitive player in the evolving hydrogen economy, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The South Africa Investment Strategy, approved by Cabinet earlier this year, lists green hydrogen as one of the big frontier sectors expected to attract foreign and domestic direct investment.

In speech at the second South Africa Hydrogen Summit last October, the president said the hydrogen economy “has a prominent role to play in our country’s just energy transition, providing employment and support to vulnerable workers, communities and small businesses.”

He added: “It has been estimated that the hydrogen economy has the potential to add 3.6 percent to our GDP by 2050 and approximately 370,000 jobs. We must act with purpose to harness the potential of the green hydrogen economy.”

In the case of CHIETA, citing the outlook for related skills, Pillay stated that the chemicals industry, for example, would require experts in petroleum and base chemicals, as well as information security analysts, data analysts and scientists, digital transformation specialists, big data specialists, lab technicians, sample takers, plant operators, and material handlers.

Pillay further highlighted that traditional occupations, such as machine operator, quality assessor, quality inspector, and lab analyst, may be replaced by new skills and competencies, potentially leading to redundancies in largely manual labour jobs.

Reskilling and preparing for future occupations are critical to ensuring that individuals seize possibilities created by the change to the hydrogen economy, he said.

CHIETA, which is mandated to assist skills development, claims it is ready to equip South Africans, nevertheless, there has been little progress – to date – in training people with the instruments to participate in the industry.

“South Africans will get opportunities for specialised training that will equip them with skills for the changing world of work, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the rapidly growing hydrogen economy,” said Pillay.

He added: “Africa can establish itself as a key supplier of green hydrogen and its derivatives, with the specific export products directly linked to geographical locations and existing industries.

‘’For this to take place, as CHIETA, we are ready to roll out the relevant skills required to ensure the country takes its place in driving the skills critical for the success of the green economy.”

According to Pillay, CHIETA's new initiatives on green hydrogen have positioned it as an innovation leader in the area, which is behind its push for skills development – to expedite the transition towards sustainable development in the chemical industry.

To this end, CHIETA is implementing strategies integrating skills development, green technology, and rural development plans to drive growth.

He said these initiatives encourage rural development, and increased utilisation of the potential of green hydrogen that benefit the industry.

“CHIETA continues to support technological advancements and long-term growth in the chemicals sector through funding skills development initiatives. This year’s research colloquium aims to examine the role of innovation in driving economies and industries towards sustainable growth, which aligns with CHIETA’s research and initiatives,” he added.

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