For the next two years a group of 25 young designers will learn the art of jewellery making and experience how some of the best designers in Italy and Switzerland go about their work.
They are part of a design programme initiated by the National Skills Fund (NSF) in partnership with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), Mining Qualification Authority (MQA) and the IL Tari Academy in Italy.
“The programme provides opportunities to study at one of the most renowned academies specialising in jewellery design,” said the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mduduzi Manana.
“The objective of the project is to increase the talent and skills of South African youth in mineral beneficiation by learning from one of the leading markets.
“IL Tari Design School, a jewellery manufacturing school in Italy, manufactures goods which are mainly exported abroad.”
Mineral beneficiation has become one of the major drivers in advancing the empowerment of historically disadvantaged communities in South Africa. It also helps with developing new entrepreneurs in large and small mining industries.
Beneficiation, or value-added processing, involves the transformation of a primary material (produced by mining and extraction processes) to a finished product, which has a higher export sales value.
The process involves, among others, craft jewellery, metal fabrication and ceramic pottery.
The students were chosen from across all nine provinces and some were taken from the technical vocational and training colleges.
Chief Executive Officer of the Mining Qualification Authority Sam Seepei said choosing the students from over 100 applications was not an easy job.
“We had to go for the best and it was a rigorous exercise. The interviews were very difficult but we believe we’ve got the cream of the crop.”
Among the designers is Gravelle Abrahams from Worcester, in the Western Cape. The 32-year-old had to quit his job to join the programme, a decision he said he doesn’t regret.
“I’ve always wanted to study further and improve my skills and when I heard about this programme I made a lot of calls until I found the correct information.
“It was not an easy road but because I knew what I wanted, I kept persevering and believed that one day the opportunity would come. It now has and I’m off to Italy,” said an excited Abrahams.
Abrahams will also be sent to Switzerland to learn how to make watches.
“I’ve always been fascinated by big watches and now I’ve got an opportunity to study their movements with the best watchmakers in the world. I’m really honoured and grateful to the department and the MQA.”
Abrahams will be joined by Koketso Mohlala from Soshanguve, north of Pretoria. Mohlala said her love of design started at an early age.
“I’ve always been a creative person and I remember my teachers encouraging me to study something in design and arts but I wanted to do something unique. I thought of fashion design and I realised many people are doing it so I chose jewellery design and manufacturing.”
In 2017, when they arrive back in South Africa, the designers will get help from the MQA to start new businesses, create jobs and help the country to speed up and make a success of the beneficiation process.
This is the first group that the DHET is sending to Italy and Switzerland and, based on their performance, department could send another group next year.