Joint UKZN/MIT Study Group 2014


Local businesses and authorities received a helping hand from some bright young minds last week.


Four students from University of KZN and Massachusetts Institute of Technology carried out research into the state of small businesses in the area and their relationship with bigger corporations who use their services.


The Ilembe Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism hosted the study group from May 28 to June 4.


The group looked at crucial elements hampering SMMEs in the district and consulted local corporations including Whirlpool, Sappi, Geldhow sugar mill and King Shaka International Airport.


They looked at issues that affect these corporate’s ability to source work locally.


“Quality and availability of relevant services, sustainability of partnerships, certifications and trust were some of the major factors,” said MIT student Kailash Gupta.


Despite these problems, the students identified huge opportunities in the district.


“We should aim to target skills training to specific demand in the labour market,” said Gupta.


Whirlpool plant director Trevor Graham believes local businesses need to support each other.


“I want to draw workers from Mandeni and Isithebe and develop their skills. However the local FET college says students are struggling to get practical training. We as local businesses need to take them in,” said Graham.


“At the moment, we do not give people opportunities to gain practical experience. It is a big responsibility, or else we will never grow our local economy.”


MIT student Laurel Donaldson believes their research showed there is a gap in technical skills in iLembe.


“The courses are available at the local colleges, but there might be a problem at the college itself,” she said.

Ilembe Chamber CEO Cobus Oelofse was impressed by the presentation.


“We need to guide and guard against a dependency on the sugar and paper industries. We must create a balance. We need to move from being king makers to rain makers and create a thriving business community,” he said.


The chamber will look to use the recommendations this year and Oelofse said they were particularly interested in creating an electronic supplier directory that will feature local suppliers and artisans.



Courtesy of the North Coast Courier