Friday, December 14, 2007

Developing Skills - Giving hope for the future

- Eric Ahrens -

In 2005, a group of like-minded residents of Prince Albert concluded that it was necessary to create a mechanism with which to equip young people leaving school with life and technical skills. So, they set up the Prince Albert People’s Skills Trust (PAPST) which incorporates the Prins Albert Toekomsvaardighhede Sentrum (PATS) as a non-governmental, non-profit organisation which aims to implement sustainable projects for the development of human skills in Prince Albert, Leeu-Gamka and Klaarstroom.

The PAPST has appointed a Board of Trustees and the PATS has designated a Management Committee, both of which comprise residents of Prince Albert from all walks of life.

The overall aim of this initiative is to identify skills deficiencies and related market opportunities locally, to draw on the existing skills in the Prince Albert community, and to transfer these skills to others in need. Given the location and economic profile of our town, the hospitality and construction sectors provide a number of valuable jobs, but other permanent employment opportunities are severely lacking.

While the surrounding farms are able to offer a number of temporary jobs during the fruit picking season, this employment is seasonal. In spite of Prince Albert’s popularity as a tourist destination, the town faces a number of pressing social and economic issues.

The PAPST and PATS also hope to assist the provincial and local authorities to deliver on the skills transfer commitment as contained in the Prince Albert Municipality’s Integrated Development Plan (IDP) for the next five years. The IDP’s primary objective is to invest in human capital through skills development strategies, as the majority of employed people are in the service oriented sector of the town’s economy.

Progress on the above initiatives has been slow, but meaningful. The PAPST is a registered legal entity, but funding is proving to be a considerable challenge! This has to a large extent, delayed the creation of the PATS in terms of resourcing the Sentrum with premises, office equipment and a manager to run the various skills transfer and training initiatives that have been identified.

In spite of these difficulties, the PAPST and PATS have already played an important role in either initiating or facilitating a number of training and development programmes within our town. These include a teacher training programme for learners who intend becoming teachers on leaving school; an ambulance paramedic training project; and technical and life skills training for staff at the National Garage, to name but a few.

Both the PAPST and PATS have still some way to go to source funds and resources for the Sentrum. It will provide a vibrant forum where young people can develop skills and technical abilities that will enable them to sustain themselves within the Prince Albert environment and community, or to seek meaningful employment opportunities beyond the town’s immediate geographic area.

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