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VUT Upington Campus set to launch Centre For Entrepreneurship; addressing skills gap in Northern Cape

By Azande Ralephenya

In what's deemed to be an iconic move that will not only place the Vaal University of Technology's, Upington Campus on the map, but also aims to boost the local economy by providing jobs and skills through quality training programmes, the VUT Upington Campus's Centre for Entrepreneurship, is set to launch on 19 April 2017, boasting a guest list of high-profile names from both local and national government expected to share in this momentous occasion.

The Centre for Entrepreneurship (CfE) will share premises with the Technology Station (TS), which is strategically situated in the industrial area. The CfE's model entails a core offering of a six-month programme, which will include all aspects of entrepreneurship. On completion, it is envisaged that the graduates will be assisted in establishing their own businesses, which will be fully supported through an incubation programme. Initially, the resources of the TS will be used for this purpose.

Anthony Mac Minn, who is the CfE's newly appointed Business Development Officer, says he's already approached SEDA to fund a fully fledged "Rapid Incubator".

"Rapid refers to failing quickly and expediting the developmental process for start-ups. The post-CfE phase includes facilitating access to funding and markets. In addition, we also offer specialised and technical training focused on entrepreneurs," says Mac Minn.

VUT funded the initiative to set up the Centre for Entrepreneurship in order to address the skills gap in the Northern Cape region; however, the bulk of the funding is from SEDA, as it currently funds 11 other similar models across the country. All, except the one based at Durban University of Technology, are linked to TVET colleges. A substantial portion of the funds provided in the first financial year is being utilised for the capital expenditure. The remainder of funds (including subsequent financial years) are to be split between operational costs and programme-related expenses.

Contributing to reduction of local unemployment:

The aim of the CfE in relation to the region and local community, is to not only focus on entrepreneurs, as initially described, but also to create a paradigm shift with students of Upington VUT and NCR TVET College, in the sense that they should see entrepreneurship as a career choice. This should contribute to the reduction of local unemployment and the creation of sustainable jobs, on a regional level.

The vision is to replicate this model on a larger scale at the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) planned for roll-out in about 18 to 24 months. The CfE team also envisages upscaling this model to tap into the regional agricultural, mining, renewable energy and solar industries.