Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the South African economy had already experienced two consecutive recessionary quarters – as a result, the COVID-19 pandemic further worsened the existing poor economic climate. Given the extent of the devastation, the economic response required should match or even surpass the scale of the disruption caused (The Presidency, 2020). To this end, The Presidency recently launched South African Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) which aims to stimulate equitable and inclusive growth.

The ERRP positions employment-oriented strategic localisation, re-industrialisation, and export promotion at the centre of economic recovery within South Africa; with priority being placed on key value chains, including the automotive sector. A key focus area of the ERRP is skills development for youth to combat the current 74% youth unemployment rate and support the uptake of the new jobs aimed to be created through the ERRP (The Presidency, 2020). The main focus of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention (PYEI) is to expedite Policy landscape Over the past decade, South Africa has experienced minimal economic growth. The stagnation of the economy has placed strain on the country’s ability to tackle historical structural inequalities, unemployment, and poverty a young persons’ journey from ‘learning to earning’.

Along with the objectives of the ERRP, the South African Automotive Masterplan 2035 (SAAM35) sets out clear targets to further develop the automotive industry through local market optimisation, greater localisation, improved transformation, and development of critical future technologies and skills, amongst other focus areas. Whilst the development of critical skills is a focus area in and of itself, it too, is a fundamental enabler of transformation, the embedding of new technologies, and the localisation of components and raw materials.

In the main, the importance of developing technical and ‘soft’ skills, cannot be overstated within the automotive component industry. It is widely recognised that a strong pipeline of skilled individuals is a cornerstone for the sustainability and growth of the manufacturing industry (Albaladejo & Weiss, 2017).