Despite strides made by the 2019 campaign See Yourself in Steel, run by the South African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC) – aimed at highlighting the value of women in the economy, South Africa’s steel industry remains largely male-dominated.
To challenge this narrative, Veer Steel Mills – a division of the Alfeco Group – is focused on bringing more women into the industry through various work readiness programmes such as learnerships, apprenticeships, internships, and various other programmes.
The importance of corporate opportunities
Brunice Taylor (24), Engineering Metallurgist Trainee at Veer Steel Mills, broke into the industry in 2019 when she was inducted as an apprentice in the Apprenticeship Training Programme for Metallurgical Engineering that turned out to be a key element in completing her National Diploma in Engineering Metallurgy, at the University of Johannesburg. Subsequently, she has become a full-time employee of Veer Steel Mills and recognises the role of companies to offer opportunities to women in these capital-intensive industries.
“I have always wanted to pursue an unconventional career. When I learnt about metallurgy from a family member, I knew I had found an uncommon field filled with intricate research methodologies within the steel industry. Through my research, I found that this career would present different problems and solutions to quality control in manufacturing, and it would be the perfect platform to learn the trade secrets from different types of engineers,” says Brunice.
Determined to help people analyse different types of failures in production and give leading solutions while working full-time Brunice obtained her second qualification, BTech Engineering Metallurgy this year. She is currently responsible for ensuring customers receive the correct quality of products based on metal property testing and standards.
Although qualified with years of experience and a second degree in her field, Brunice still faces difficulties as a leader within her daily quality control responsibilities where men question being led by a woman. Despite that, Brunice remains steadfast in changing the narrative that women cannot lead in male- dominated industries.
“Some older men still believe that they cannot be led by a young woman which is one of the challenges I face constantly. However, I am happy that I work for an organisation that gives women a platform to lead and take on roles that are sometimes demanding but increase our knowledge, thinking capacity and skills,” says Brunice.
Brunice is fuelled to perform, and she further highlighted her appreciation for freedom stalwarts who fought for women’s rights in South Africa.
“I am grateful for women such as Helen Joseph and Lillian Ngoyi who stood up for generations after them and fought for us to be seen as equals. I can work in the steel industry today and I am confident we can do as much as men in the engineering field. These women and the solid support structure from my family is what I rely on for motivation to soar higher in metallurgy,” says Brunice.
She concludes by encouraging young people to fiercely go into a career they love and dare not be intimidated by the challenges that come with it.
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