How to Become a Millwright in South Africa

by Staff Reporter

Have you always been interested in repairing & assembling electrical equipment, yet you have an equal passion for all things mechanical? Then being a Millwright might be for you! The work of the millwright is both electrical and mechanical.

Millwrights (or industrial mechanics) are an elite group of craftsmen who work primarily in metal and with equipment and machinery requiring precision.

If you’re interested in a millwright career in South Africa, there are a few things you need to do to get started. 

The millwright trade is a dual trade which requires a blend of theory and practical work.

You’ll need to find an accredited (CETA or SAQA) institution that offers millwright apprenticeships and complete the required training. After completing your training, you’ll have to pass the relevant trade test and register with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA). 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to become a millwright in South Africa.

Table of Contents

What does a millwright do?

Millwright operating a machine

A millwright is a highly skilled tradesman who installs, maintains and repairs industrial machinery and equipment. 

They use a variety of tools and techniques to install, troubleshoot and repair industrial machinery and perform tasks such as welding and insulation on buildings and machines such as forklifts.

Millwrights must have a solid understanding of occupational health and safety regulations – safety procedures, hazard control, and emergency protocols.

Where does a millwright work?

Nearly every industry uses machinery and, hence, requires millwrights. Jobs for millwrights are available in most industries including: power generation, mining, automotive, refinery, manufacturing, transportation, food processing, pharmaceutical, nuclear, and postal service.

What are the minimum requirements to start studying to become a millwright in South Africa?

Since this is a technical position, millwrights may gain necessary training through an apprenticeship program.

There are two main routes to study toward becoming a millwright and obtaintaining your qualification: a four year millwright apprenticeship or obtaining an Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning (ARPL) if you already have the practical experience. 

Each institution has their own minimum requirements, so it’s best to contact the institution of your choice directly for accurate, detailed information.

The minimum requirements to start studying to become a millwright in South Africa vary at the different institutions across the country. But generally, the basic minimum entry requirements are listed below.

What are the minimum requirements to start a millwright apprenticeship?

  • You must be at least 16 years old with a Grade 9 Certificate (NQF Level 1), although some employers prefer higher qualifications and
  • You will need to have good results in Maths and Science.

What are the minimum requirements for an Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning (ARPL)?

  • You must have at least three years of industry experience and
  • Be at least 19 years old.

What qualifications do I need to become a millwright in South Africa?

You will need industry-recognised training and you will need to pass your trade test to become a qualified millwright and be allowed to register with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA). 

If you already have at least three years of recognised practical experience and want to qualify via the ARPL route, you should be able to submit Proof of Evidence of your training and skip straight to the trade test by registering with an ARPL-ready training provider.

Most employers require their millwrights to have a Millwright Trade Certificate and a minimum of three years industry experience on their resumes. Any engineering certificates obtained will be an added bonus and is likely to offer you access to better job opportunities

Prepare for your millwright trade test by completing an apprenticeship & theory course

The millwright trade has existed for centuries, and it is still an important part of many industries today. If you want to become a millwright in South Africa, you will need to complete a millwright apprenticeship. This typically takes about four years to complete. 

Students who pursue an apprenticeship are paid while they receive on-the-job instruction. Millwrights receive much of their instruction in on-the-job or laboratory settings. Additional specific classroom instruction may cover theoretical topics that help potential millwrights to understand relevant machinery and tasks.

What is a millwright apprenticeship?

A millwright apprenticeship is a four-year program that will teach you the skills and knowledge you need to become a millwright. During your apprenticeship, you will learn how to install, maintain, and repair milling machines. You will also learn how to read blueprints and other technical drawings.

What does a millwright apprentice do?

The millwright apprentice usually works under the supervision of a millwright, who is a skilled technician. During the apprenticeship, which usually lasts four years, the millwright apprentice learns how to maintain equipment, install new machines, troubleshoot problems, read blueprints, and more.

What are the millwright apprenticeship entry requirements?

Anyone can become a millwright apprentice, however, you must be at least 16 years old and possess a Grade 9 Certificate (although some employers prefer higher qualifications). The most important requirement is that you must be dedicated to the process.

How do I apply for an apprenticeship?

If you meet the minimum requirements, you can apply for a millwright apprenticeship with a registered training institution such as Durnacol.

Can I reduce the length of my apprenticeship?

Millwright apprenticeships require a minimum of 3 years of workplace-based learning. So while you may not reduce your millwright apprenticeship, you are able to complete your apprenticeship while you are enrolled in technical courses.

What theory requirements are needed for a millwright apprenticeship?

The NATED N1-N3 Certificate in Engineering is a qualification from NQF levels N1 – N3 focusing on the theory of engineering studies that you can complete at a technical college while doing your millwright apprenticeship.

This certificate meets the academic requirements for you to write your trade test once you have acquired the required practical hours.

After you have completed your apprenticeship, you will be eligible to take the millwright certification examination. Once you have passed this exam, you will be a certified millwright in South Africa.

Complete the millwright trade test

The millwright trade test is designed to test your technical and theoretical knowledge in order to certify you as a millwright.

A millwright trade test can only be written after the completion of formal training. All millwrights need to write this formal trade test in order to receive national recognition in this field. You must apply at an accredited Trade Test Centre to undergo a trade test.

Once you have passed your millwright trade test, you are then eligible to register with the  Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA). 

How long does it take to become a qualified millwright in South Africa?

Millwright fixing a machine

To become a fully qualified millwright in South Africa can take many years to complete. The millwright structured programs take between three and five years to complete, and a purely practical qualification can take up to four years to complete.

Qualified millwrights are required to complete a theoretical and practical examination. After passing the examinations, millwrights are required to register with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).

What skills do I need to become a millwright in South Africa?

Millwrights need to have excellent manual dexterity as the job involves the regular handling of small parts and they must have extensive knowledge of the machinery they will be expected to operate.

Some of the key skills required to become a millwright in South Africa include:

Blueprint reading

The ability to read and interpret engineering drawings and blueprints is essential.

Industrial maths

A millwright should be comfortable working with numbers and able to perform calculations related to their trade.

Communication

Millwrights need to be able to communicate effectively with other members of the team, as well as customers or clients.

Mechanical aptitude

Millwrights need to have a good understanding of how mechanical systems work in order to be able to install, maintain, and repair them.

Safety awareness

Millwrights need to be aware of potential safety hazards while working and take precautions to avoid accidents.

Problem-solving and analytical skills

When something goes wrong with a mechanical system, millwrights need to be able to diagnose the problem and find a solution. Millwrights need to be able to identify problems and find solutions quickly and efficiently.

Fine motor skills

Millwrights need to have good hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills in order to work with small parts and tools.

Physical strength and stamina

The job of a millwright can be physically demanding, so millwrights need to be strong enough to lift heavy equipment and materials and have the stamina to stand for long periods of time.

Besides these important attributes, a millwright has to prove exceptional interpersonal skills. Working on construction sites requires clear communication and precise interpretation of job delegations.

Millwright standing infront of a machine

Where can I study to become a millwright in South Africa?

There are a great number of different institutions in South Africa where you can study to become a millwright, including technical and vocational colleges, private colleges, and universities

Millwrights who wish to study for additional qualifications may choose to study at a university

To find out more about technical and vocational studies, have a look at All you need to know to start studying at trade schools in South Africa.

Funding your millwright studies at a TVET college in school in South Africa.

Becoming a millwright in South Africa is not easy, but it can give you an exciting and rewarding career. If you like working with machines, precision instruments, and tools, and have a keen eye for perfect assemblies, then you have the basic skills to build a stable career for a lifetime!

If you need assistance with funding, we can help! Fundi offers student financing that covers a range of costs. Try our loan calculator to learn more about how we can help you develop and achieve your goal of becoming a millwright!

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