Minister of Labour, Membathisi Mdladlana, said skills development and training among disadvantaged communities would play a key role in realising government's goal of halving the country's unemployment rate and poverty levels by 2014.
Speaking during a graduation ceremony for 160 tourism learnership trainees in Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape Minister Mdladlana remarked that the occasion was a reminder that business and other social partners were beginning to embrace skills strategy.
"One of the key objectives of the Strategy was to assist young new entrants into employment and here today we are seeing the fruits of our joint efforts. Hopefully all the participants who passed now have skills they did not have before and are better equipped not only to compete for formal jobs, but to consider using the skills they have acquired to study further or to start their own businesses", the Minister said.
The Spatial Development Initiative programme - which is funded by the European Union in collaboration with the Tourism and Hospitality Sector Seta - aims to increase the income and employment of previously disadvantaged communities through participation in the tourism industry.
The training covers a spectrum of programmes including tour guide, camp keeping, conservation learnership and tour operator training.
Minister Mdladlana commended the service providers for ensuring that 41 out of the 66 learners were women, in line with the Skills Development Act equity targets.
"I am glad to see that care was taken to ensure the participation of women. Monday is Women's Day, and I believe we all have an interest in ensuring that economic freedom is a goal for all, not just men", he said.
But the Minister hastened to caution that a lot still needed to be done to address equity particularly for people with disabilities
"The strategy sets out that of all the people who receive training 85% must be black, 54% women and 4% people with disabilities", the Minister said.
"The major problem is that it seems that when learners are recruited for learnerships, people with disabilities are forgotten", he said.
"This is certainly something to think about in future - as it is only if we all stretch that little further will people with disabilities be able to begin to explore their own potential and contribute to the growth and development of our country", he added.
Source: Department of Labour