Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has encouraged newly-qualified chefs to maximise the opportunities presented by government to advance themselves.
The Minister was officiating at a graduation ceremony of 353 youths, who successfully completed the National Youth Chefs Training Programme (NYCTP).
The graduation ceremony was held at Regina Mundi Church in Soweto on Wednesday. The church was used as a safe house during apartheid.
"It is so apt that we are gathered in this church to celebrate the youth who today are realising the gains of democracy that were hard fought for by both young and old.
"Forty-three years ago, Regina Mundi Church opened its doors to the youth of 1976, shielding them from the police who sought to smother their dream of a right to quality education.
"Today, we celebrate your accomplishment, honour their legacy, and encourage you to continue being active citizens of our democracy as we all strive to build a better country," said Kubayi-Ngubane.
The NYCTP is an initiative of the Department of Tourism, funded through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).
Initiated in 2011, the NYCTP forms part of the National Tourism Sector Strategy to address skills shortages in the sector, while contributing towards government's greater objective of creating employment for the youth. To date, the programme has trained more than 2 000 unemployed youths as chefs.
Graduates from Gauteng, Limpopo, Free State, Northern Cape, North West and Mpumalanga were part of a group of 500 learners who participated in the NYCTP in the 2018/19 financial year.
The training comprised 30% theory and 70% on-the-job training, equipping learners with Level 1 to 3 skills in food preparation and pastry making.
The graduates received globally recognised City and Guilds accredited qualifications from the SA Chefs Association, affirming their credentials as world-class professional chefs.
Speaking on behalf of the inland group of graduates, Carlson Madlala said he was happy to have been part of the NYCTP initiative, as it enabled him to pursue his dream.
"I would like to thank the Department of Tourism for this programme. It has opened the door for me to follow my dream of being a chef," Madlala said.
The NYCTP graduation took place as the country prepares to commemorate National Reconciliation Day on 16 December 2019. The day will be observed under the theme: "The Year of Indigenous Languages: Supporting National Reconciliation through the Promotion, Development and Preservation of Indigenous Languages".
Kubayi-Ngubane impressed on the youth the importance of preserving and sharing their cultural heritage in the workplace as the frontline ambassadors of the country, and the tourism industry.
"On 16 December, our country will celebrate National Reconciliation Day, putting the spotlight on the importance of preserving our indigenous languages.
"As you enter the world of work, be cognisant that you are the frontline ambassadors of our diverse and unique cultural heritage, and a critical part of a tourist's experience of our country.
"Take pride in your heritage and utilise every opportunity to share your culture and language with tourists as it is one of the unique aspects that makes our country a preferred destination of choice," Kubayi-Ngubayi said.