Often, when we think of our working life, we think that finding a job is based only on our academic results. Perhaps you haven’t achieved the results you wanted, or you don’t actually know what you want to do. Have you considered a trade? This line of work is often ignored but is actually a great pathway to success. Trades people are usually highly skilled in the trade that they have been trained in and can enjoy a successful career. There are so many trades to choose from.

Here are some examples:

• Plumber: A plumber is someone who installs and repairs pipes that supply water to and removes waste from homes and businesses. He or she also installs bathroom and kitchen items such as toilets and sinks.

• Electrician: An electrician installs and repairs various electrical systems such as wiring and lighting.

• Dress maker/tailor: A dressmaker and a tailor designs and makes clothes as well as altering and repairing them.

• Boiler maker: A boiler maker builds structures of steel plates such as boilers for steam engines and pressure vessels for power stations as well as for other industries such as mines and oil drilling.

• Tool maker: A tool maker produces and repairs precision tools such as jigs, moulds and dies used in manufacturing to make products.

• Aircraft mechanic: An aircraft mechanic works on the electrical system, the engine and the body or structure of an airplane to keep it safe for flight.

• Car mechanic: A car or auto mechanic works on the electrical system and engine of a car which needs regular services to work well.

• Crane operator: A crane operator works on cranes or draglines to lift, move, position and place large objects at construction sites.

• Brick mason: A mason uses bricks, concrete blocks, or stone to build structures such as walls, bridges and fences.

• Plasterer: A plasterer pastes layers of plaster onto walls, floors and ceilings which protects buildings and makes them look better.

• Carpenter: A carpenter builds and works with wood to create a variety of structures and furniture.

• Fitters and Turners: A fitter and turner maintains and repairs many different kinds of machines used to manufacture products.

• Truck driver: A truck driver is responsible for delivery products by driving trucks to the required destination which can involve driving long distances.

• Welding technician: A welder joins metal parts together using torches and other equipment in the manufacturing and construction business.

• Beautician: A beautician provides skin care, nail care and hair removal treatments to clients.

• Hair stylist: A hair stylist cuts, braids and dyes clients’ hair based on the individual’s requirements.

People who work in trades require theoretical and on-the-job training to become skilled in their particular trade. Many trades require a minimum of a Grade 9 certificate, and thereafter the trade can be learnt through a technical college as well as working for a specified length of time with a skilled tradesman.

For example, if you are interested in becoming a plumber, you need to have passed Grade 9 and attend an accredited Technical Training College to obtain an N2 certificate in Plumbing Theory. After that, you need to complete a number of practical modules before working with a qualified plumber for about 18 months. Then you take the Industry Trade Test that would qualify you as a certified plumber.

Most trades follow a similar pathway to becoming qualified.

Trades also require people who are:

• Able to get on with others well
• Enjoy working with their hands
• Are very precise in their work
• Are practical
• Perform tasks quickly
• Have stamina

The opportunities for people who become skilled craftsmen are really good. Many skilled trades’ people eventually start their own business so this is a great entry point to become an entrepreneur. Perhaps you’ll be employing other people one day! At the beginning, the salary may not be a great as you want it to be, but once you’re really good at what you do, you can earn a very good income from your trade. As usual, hard work and persistence pays off.

In the past, many of the more mechanical trades were seen as the preserve of men. Today, the door is wide open for women to participate in these trades too. Many women become truck drivers and welders as well as dress makers and beauticians.

Another benefit of trades is that the employment opportunities remain stable. People always need to get their hair cut or braided, businesses require people to work with boilers and metal plating, home owners need people to fix their plumbing and build their houses and car owners need someone to fix their cars. The opportunities for work are always there!

South Africa has a shortage of skilled artisans. Although there may not be enough desk jobs to go around, certain trades actually need qualified people. Here is a link to the Department of Higher Education and Training about the 15 trades in which we have a shortage: http://www.dhet.gov.za

The value of working in some of the trades:

• There is a high demand for your skill
• You can be creative
• You can be a private contractor or work for big organisations, including government
• You can find practical solutions for real problems and use tools and technology to get things done
• Feel satisfied at completing real tasks

There are a variety of technical colleges that provide training in trades. Some of these are:

TVET Colleges (Technical Vocational Education and Training) – there are 50 of them around the country
The Skills Portal (online)
College SA
Northlink College
Intec College

Training to have a career in a specialised trade is an excellent way of opening the world of work to you. By having a skill that employers actually need, and in some case there is a shortage of, makes it easier to find a job. Working in a trade that you enjoy is a satisfying long term career choice.


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