How to become an artisan: A look at what it takes to get into instrumentation

by: Terry Simelane-Mathabathe - 5 October 2017

How to become an artisan: A look at what it takes to get into instrumentation

You don’t have to doctor, engineer or lawyer to have a successful career. For the people that prefer work that is more technical, a career in the trade industry has become an enticing and well-paying option.

Meet Clevelynne Cloete, the 26-year-old who spends her days donning overalls and heavy duty boots, working as an instrumentation artisan.

“As an instrumentation artisan, I maintain, repair and install instruments that are used to measure pressure levels, temperature, and flow on a manufacturing plant.” Clevelynne laughs while trying to explain her job to someone who has never seen a plant or worked with her hands.

“When you start out as an apprentice, your day usually begins with a morning meeting where you get your job card (a document that shows you which machines you will be working on today). You cannot work on anything without a job card. You then report on what happened the previous day and then it’s off to the plant.”

When asked about the challenges faced by women of colour in her field, Clevelynne answers with a heavy sigh. “Men are quite sexist. They don’t think that a woman can work on a mechanical plant and they are vocal about it. They have told me that woman has no place on a plant, or women can’t carry the heavy equipment and take out valves to repair them, so why are we even doing this job.”

It has been quite a challenge for her to advance in her career. It took the Mpumalanga resident a year and six months to be promoted to a more senior position.

“To upgrade you have to write a test. I had to fight for the opportunity to write the test, I saw people upgrading without having to write the test,” she says.

So how did Clevelynne become an instrumentation artisan? She applied for an apprenticeship (learnership) in instrumentation and control at Sasol.

“I had to go to a medical exam where they made sure I was physically fit enough to do my job. I took an aptitude test and then I went for an interview. I was fresh out of matric.” You can study instrumentation at a FET college or do a learnership with a company.

Instrumentation is not a typical 9 to 5. Instrumentation artisans are sometimes required to be on standby (to come in at any time if there is a problem with any of the machines, anytime, that could be 1 a.m) or to work overtime.

You are, however, compensated for these unusual working hours. The average salary for an entry level artisan is approximately R12 000 per month.*

For the senior artisan, her career highlights was when she was finally able to upgrade from a junior artisan, and she has her sights on achieving more.

“When I get back from maternity leave next year; I am going to apply for an upgrade to be a specialist artisan. I want to keep pushing until I get to master artisan. That’s the ultimate goal.”

*This is an estimate and differs based on employer and qualifications