Mr. Pillay holds a Degree in Economics from the University of Cape Town (UCT), a Post
Graduate Diploma in Business Administration and Management from the Gordon Institute of
Business Science (GIBS) and an MBA from GIBS.
Pillay believes in a stakeholder-centric, innovation-powered approach to leadership and has a
proven track record of being actively involved at the executive management level for the past
12 years. This has included managing large teams in the successful formulation and
implementation of corporate strategy.
He joins the CHIETA following his previous role as Director of Stakeholder Management in
the office of the Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Technology. He prides himself on
being a leader who understands the importance of relationship building and the power of
appreciating the value of the people he works with.
One of the highlights of his eminent career includes his tenure as the Executive Chairperson
of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), during which he was able to lead the
organisation to its first-ever clean audit outcome in 2015, after only two years in office. “It was
a significant lesson in leadership. It taught me the importance of trust and how to bring out the
best in people,” said Pillay. Another significant highlight was his appointment as the
Chairperson of the Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT) committee at Airports
Company South Africa (ACSA). “The experience of being a digital leader has been a truly
fulfilling one,” said Pillay.
As the incoming CEO of the CHIETA, he hopes to motivate and inspire the amazing people at
the CHIETA, encouraging them to unite and co-create a shared vision and mission. “My role
is to catalyse the collective wisdom and leadership within the CHIETA.” said Pillay. This will
coincide with his plans to address the common challenges within the CHIETA while working
towards the goals of growth, job creation, and social development that are outlined in the
“We need to close the skills gap in the Chemical Industries, which can only be achieved
through a greater focus on transformation, underpinned by innovative principles, practices,
and strategies,” said Pillay. He believes that innovation starts with the frontline employee and
that every employee has the potential to be innovative. As the organisational leader, he plans
to find ways to unlock this innovation potential, while ensuring that it is aligned with the
CHIETA’s goals. Mr Pillay wants to play his part in striving to position the CHIETA as the best
and most innovative SETA in the skills development and training landscape.
When discussing his plans to address the chemical industries’ skills development needs and
implementation within the current Covid-19 landscape: Firstly, he emphasised the need for all
South Africans to play their part in being responsible citizens as well as leading by example to
engender a safe and secure society. “As a responsible organisation and a responsible
corporate citizen, we must ask tough questions and develop a deeper understanding of the
problems that our society is facing. We need to develop a deeper understanding of our
purpose as an institution and why we exist in the first place.” said Pillay.
Where promoting the adoption of STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and
Maths) and the opportunities that it presents for young unemployed people in South Africa is
concerned, he stressed the importance of promoting STEM education amongst the youth.
From where he’s sitting, STEM education is important because it allows the CHIETA to
develop the next generation of problem solvers, critical thinkers, and innovative leaders for
the chemical industries.
“We can certainly learn from international experience in promoting the adoption of STEM
fields. As an example, the relative success of STEM hubs that promote and support STEM
ambassadors could be a useful model for further exploration in the South African context,”
said Pillay. “Additionally, the CHIETA needs to address the gender inequality gap in the
chemical industries and should consider developing more targeted programmes that focus on
raising the next generation of young women in STEM careers.” he continued.
In the context of the fourth industrial revolution, he thinks that the CHIETA needs to rapidly
realise the importance of digital skills and ultimately move swiftly to identifying the top digital
skills that will be relevant for the progress of the chemical industries in South Africa.
When asked about any advice he would give to the next generation of leaders in the chemical
industry, Mr Pillay said, “To keep up, you have to keep learning. Learning is the dominant
strategy of the day. It is the essence of innovation. Develop a culture of lifelong learning and
as you do so, learn to be responsible leaders who value community, people and the planet
above profits. Be responsible and innovative leaders who do well by doing good”.
A warm welcome is extended to Mr Yershen Pillay and we look forward to his leadership in
partnering with the Chemical Industry and Government on strategic skills development
interventions in addressing the socio-economic challenges we face collectively as a country.