The Eastern Cape is home to two coastal cities with well-established port facilities and industrial infrastructure. Yet it has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and economic growth has lagged behind other regions. What would it take to turn the Eastern Cape’s economic potential into income-generating opportunities for its people? Part of the answer is in improved linkages between schooling, training and work.

Mbali Sokude, 24, from KwaZulu-Natal, is one of about 500 young people being trained at the Mercedes-Benz academy in East London to operate and fix the machines on the new C-Class assembly line. She attended a technikon from grade 10, graduating in electrical and mechanical engineering, and is now training to be a millwright at the academy.  “If there are problems [with the robots], then I’m the one who’s fixing those problems.” The academy, established with support from the National Treasury’s Jobs Fund, bridges a gap between college courses and facto...

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