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Chef's Academy in Pretoria

Opening a new Chef's Academy in Pretoria, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has urged 36 aspirant chefs to return to their communities and share the skills they will learn there.

"We want you to succeed. You must go back to your communities and give back the skills you have learnt...and the knowledge that we are a country with many challenges but also opportunities to develop youth," Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka said on Monday, quoting in part from President Thabo Mbeki's State of the National Address on Friday.

Speaking at the event in the Presidential Guesthouse, the Deputy President emphasised the importance of chefs to the country's economy, as they play a key role in the hospitality sector.

The tourism industry, said Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka, contributed 8 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

With this in mind, she prioritised professional culinary skills as among the nation's scarce skill categories.

The Compass Group Chef Academy will have an initial intake of 36 learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. They will be trained by the Compass Group, a leading food service company.

The 36 students comprise 90 percent black, 54 percent female and 4 percent disabled.

The group will undertake an 18 month long course and have the opportunity to obtain a cookery diploma programme through City and Guilds, a United Kingdom based vocational awarding body.

The students will come away with an internationally recognised qualification.

The initiative is a partnership with the Swiss Hotel School and Umsobomvu Youth Fund, supported by The Presidency under the Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA).

Colleen Mhlanga, 21 from Cosmo City in Johannesburg told BuaNews that today was the start of a better life for her.

"After I finished my matric I did not have money to further my studies and I was unemployed, but thanks to this partnership my life is about to change," said an enthusiastic Colleen.

The Deputy President also touched on the importance of chef's skills ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

According to data from South Africa Tourism foreign arrivals have contributed more than R79 billion to South Africa's economy.

It is also expected make up about 12 percent of the country's GDP by the time the 2010 FIFA World Cup comes around, said the Chief Executive Officer of SA Tourism Moeketsi Mosola, at the launch of Tourism month in 2007.

"We are expecting some 450 000 international travellers in the space of six weeks," he said, adding that South Africa was more than capable of handling the influx of soccer fans.


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