When I say I’m a toolmaker, people assume spanners and screwdrivers’

Two women break mould in male-dominated industry

10 August 2022 – 08:02


Two women break mould in male-dominated industry

When Puseletso Mmutle and Goitseone Mohale matriculated, they had no idea what  toolmakers did.

The two, from Pretoria, are today making strides in the male-dominated industry. Mmutle, 26, is currently lecturing after briefly working as a toolmaker. Mohale, 29, specialises in making aeroplane parts. 

Both women were trained under the Production Technologies Associations of SA’s (PtSA) flagship Toolmaking Apprenticeship programme.

“After matric in 2010, I completed my N4 in electrical engineering at the Tshwane South College in three years. I then searched for an apprenticeship and after reading about it in a newspaper advert, I did my own research and found it to be an interesting path to undertake,” said Mohale.

The 29-year-old from Mabopane was offered the opportunity to work in the aviation sector.

She is currently the only female in the toolmaking department.

“When I tell people that I am a toolmaker, they assume that you are making a spanner or a screwdriver, which is not the case. But what you are trained in is producing these tools that will form whatever product … from the making of a door, a chair, a bottle,” Mohale said. 

The pair said toolmaking, which has different branches from metal and plastic, is the manufacturing of a tool that is used to develop day-to-day products. These could vary from manufacturing a tool for car door frames, laptop covers or a simple plastic chair.

“There are different careers that one can undertake after completing the course like  programming, designing or run machines. To date, I realised that so many people don’t know about these careers where they can get employment because we are still exposed to careers that are overly saturated,” adding also that while she knew nothing about toolmaking, once you are taught about it you can easily adjust.

Goitseone Mohale makes airplane parts.
Image: Supplied

Mmutle, after completing matric in 2013, could not further her studies at a university because of a lack of funds. She heard about the apprenticeship programme at a career day expo and enrolled in 2014. Now as a qualified professional, she said she wishes more women would jump at the opportunity for a career that almost guarantees employment. 

“I know that as women, not all of us want to be office-bound but society has conditioned us to think that we do not have the ability to do any other thing. But as someone who likes working with my hands and being creative in other ways, and being challenged, I found that toolmaking satisfied that urge,” she said.

She admits that the trade can get a little physical but technology has helped in lessening the intensity of it. Mmutle was in the car manufacturing space before lecturing. She plans to make an impact on students.

“I wish we could have more people venture into this industry of toolmaking so we can manufacture our products, even maybe have our own car manufacturer one day. This will certainly have a positive impact on the economy and help alleviate the dire unemployment rate that we see today,” she said.

PtSA’s intergovernmental relations liaison Boitumelo Mosupyoe said since the programme’s inception in 2011, their female intake has moved up from 30% over the years to seeing a sharp increase with their July female intake reaching an intake of 54% women out of the 60 students they currently have.

To date, PtSA has trained an estimate of 2,400 students. “We also offer bursaries and have trained a lot of students over the years from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.

Mosupyoe said that the programme came about after PtSA recognised the massive skills shortage in the tooling industry, and partnered with the department of trade, industry and competition came up with a skills development programme, TDM Powered, which is run through the governance body Instimbi.

“TDM focuses mainly on toolmaking and we will also have an enterprise development wing where we assist manufacturing companies mainly by benchmarking them against international companies that do the same work but mainly in tooling to be globally competitive,” she said. – malibaa@sowetan.co.za

‘When I say I’m a toolmaker, people assume spanners and screwdrivers’ (sowetanlive.co.za)