The purpose of the workshop is to drive industrial development, facilitate job creation, and mostly introduce students to available opportunities within the agro-processing sector. The initiative is primarily targeted at final year students studying towards their Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Bachelor of Agriculture (Agricultural Extension & Rural Resources Management) and the Advanced Diploma in Agriculture in Post-Harvest Technology degrees.
UMP Head of School of Agricultural Sciences Professor Kutu Fonso said the programme aims to create awareness and to encourage students to make use of the different products and services available through governmental departments.
“This workshop also highlights opportunities available in the agro-processing sector, to promote opportunities for the self-employed, and to encourage innovation. Through this information sharing session we hope to stimulate youth entrepreneurship in South Africa by encouraging more young people to consider entering the entrepreneurship space as a viable career choice," he said.
Professor Kutu further noted that the workshop will assist to facilitate business contracts between youth and their international counterparts, and to inform stakeholders of the various programme offerings in the School of Agricultural Sciences. The Student Exposure Programme includes local, national and international perspectives on how entrepreneurship and innovation can be strengthened in the midst of modern technological trends and sociological changes in the labour market.
In her address, Vice-Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso said: “As an engaged University, our institution places great value on partnerships. They are the drivers and enablers of achieving our vision: To be an African University leading in creating opportunities for sustainable development through innovation.”
She added that the collaboration with the DTIC encompassed and promoted almost all of UMP’s values.
“We value such experiences as part of our Pioneering Journey, ‘Luhambo Lwemhlahlandlela’ as we continue to create opportunities for our students. We aim to produce graduates who are innovative and entrepreneurial; graduates who are intellectually curious, independent, creative and critical thinkers and who are able to innovate by applying their knowledge and skills to solutions of novel as well as routine problems for sustainable development.
As such, the workshop and the collaboration provide the perfect partnership from which students can benefit. In addition, the university will become even better equipped to mould and prepare students for the labour market.
“This workshop will provide UMP with information that will assist the institution in preparing our students for the labour market and to respond effectively to the opportunities available within the agro-processing sector in particular. It is a crucial economic sector through which we may be able to transform our country and play a meaningful role in job creation,” said the Vice Chancellor.
In the devastating wake of COVID-19, as well as a job market that is suffering globally, much of the focus fell on entrepreneurship and finding ways to encourage more people to pursue careers as entrepreneurs. Said prof Mayekiso, “The way COVID-19 has changed lives and livelihoods so suddenly, we need to pay more attention to the agro-processing sector, and use it as a vehicle through which to grind our way out of poverty and unemployment.”
Among the speakers were representatives from the following additional industries and organisations: the International Trade Administration Commission, the Agricultural Research Council, the National Agricultural Marketing Council, the Companies and Intellectual Property, the Small Enterprise Development Agency, the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and Fruit South Africa.
A total of 53 students physically attended the workshop, while over 13 attended virtually via Zoom.
Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures @ChrisplPhoto