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I am a qualified refrigeration mechanic - Do I qualify for the GCC factories?

Updated: Feb 26, 2021



Refrigeration mechanics looking to climb the corporate ladder should consider obtaining the Government Certificate of Competency (GCC) Factories.


The GCC Factories allows specific trades to pursue the GCC Factories and the refrigeration mechanic trade is one of them.


The purpose of this post is to present the specific GCC Factories requirements for refrigeration mechanics looking to fill the GMR 2 role. The specific GMR 2 role, in this case, is the GMR 2 role for factories where the sum of the power generated by machinery at the factory is above 3000 kW.


The requirements GCC Factories requirements for refrigeration mechanics are as follows:


1. You must be at least 23 years of age


You need to ensure that you above the age of 23 years when submitting your application to write the GCC Factories exams.


You will need to submit a certified copy of your ID or Passport to demonstrate that you meet this requirement. Make sure that the ID certification is not older than three months from submitting your application.


2. You must illustrate good conduct during your career


You need to complete the letter of sobriety and get it signed by your employer. The sobriety letter needs to be concerning your experience in factory operation and maintenance functions.


Your employer must certify that you have the maturity, skills, and experience to fulfill the machinery supervision role. More on this later.



3. You must be in the position of a National Technical N6 diploma in mechanical engineering (Technical College Course)


It is a requirement to have a National Technical N6 diploma in mechanical engineering. You must have scored at least 50% on all subjects. If not, you will need to redo the subjects where you scored less than 50%.


Refrigeration mechanics typically obtain an occupational certificate. The refrigeration mechanic occupational certificate issued by QCTO is NQF level 4 (i.e., it is up to N4 level)


Meaning, you will need to complete your N5 and N6 to make you eligible to obtain the N6 mechanical engineering technical diploma issued by the Department of Higher Education and Training.


In short, your N4 refrigeration mechanic occupational certificate is not enough to qualify for the GCC Factories.


4. You must have served in an apprenticeship in appropriate trade.


The refrigeration mechanic occupational trade is a recognised trade by the Department of Employment and Labour. Ensure you complete your trade test and obtain your official occupational trade certificate from the QCTO.

5. You must have experience in the maintenance and operation of mechanical or electrical machinery, as listed under the trade (to the satisfaction of the Commission of Examiners)


Refrigeration mechanics is an acceptable trade. However, you will need to have at least three (3) years of mechanical or electrical machinery maintenance and operations experience.

It is alright if the experience is only on maintenance and operation of mechanical machinery. The logical direction for refrigeration mechanics is to move into mechanical maintenance and operations.


Your experience as a refrigeration mechanic may not be enough but could secure a broader mechanical maintenance role.


The experience starts counting from when you obtained your occupational certificate and started working in mechanical maintenance and operations.


The Department of Employment & Labour will not consider the experience gained during training or before obtaining your trade certificate. Your experience needs to include other broader mechanical maintenance functions.


You need to articulate your experience in your letter of experience clearly. Make sure that you emphasize your mechanical maintenance and operation experience.



So, what type of maintenance & operation work is considered appropriate? Examples of proper maintenance & operation work include:

  • Planning and execution of preventative maintenance activities, e.g., vibration monitoring, oil monitoring, period plant visual inspections, ensuring machinery is operated within agreed parameters, etc.,

  • Ensuring and enforcing compliance to OHS Act and its regulations,

  • Locating sources of problems by observing mechanical devices in operation, listening for problems, and using precision measuring and testing instruments,

  • Planning and execution of removal of defective parts or machinery from the plant,

  • Carrying out quality control during the repair or manufacture of parts or machinery,

  • Developing parts or machinery specifications,

  • Ensuring compliance of part or machinery to specifications, standards, and regulations,

  • Control downtime by monitoring Mean Time Between Failures and taking corrective actions,

  • Ensure there are sufficient spares available for critical equipment.

  • Prepare mechanical maintenance reports,

  • Plan and execute plant or machinery overhauls,

  • Plan and execute plant capital (CAPEX) and operational (OPEX) projects, and

  • Operating the plant and machinery safely and ensuring good housekeeping is maintained.

The maintenance & operation work needs to be on mechanical machinery and installation, e.g., diesel generators, boilers, pressure vessels, pumps, conveyor belts, etc.


Suppose you are in doubt that your experience is appropriate. In that case, I will advise that you submit your application to the Department of Labour Commission of Examiners. This way, you will receive a comprehensive response to your eligibility. It may take anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks to get an answer from the Department of Labour.


6. You must have at least 1-year experience in a factory


This one year experience in a factory could be part of the minimum required post qualification experience. In other words, requirements stated under 5 and 6 may be concurrent.


You will indicate your experience in a factory by stating it in your letter of experience. In the letter, make sure you clearly state the type of environment you worked in, e.g., "I worked at Eskom Majuba Power Station..."


What type of working environment meets the requirements of working in a factory environment? Here are a few examples:

  • Working in a power station e.g. Eskom generation, Sasol boiler plant, Tongaat Boiler plant etc.,

  • Working in a chemical processing plant, e.g., Sasol, BASF, SAB, etc.,

  • Working in a fabrication plant, e.g., Arcelormittal, John Thompson Boilers, etc.,

  • Working in an FMCG plant, e.g., Unilever, Nestle, P&G, etc.,

This requirement's vital aspect is that the environment needs to be some production environment or boiler plant or bulk material environment. You must be responsible for ensuring that the mechanical machinery and installation are operating correctly and are maintained. The experience needs to be from a systems perspective and not just a specific machinery such as a refrigeration plant.


When in doubt, submit your application to the Department of Labour Commission of Examiners. This way, you will receive a comprehensive response on your eligibility. It may take anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks to get an answer from the Department of Labour.


7. You must pass all plant engineering TVET college subjects by at least 50% and passed the prescribed TVET subjects by at least 50%


The most significant confusion is the subject requirements for National Technical Diploma (N6) applicants.


The minimum subjects that GCC factories mechanical applicants with a National Technical Diploma (N6) in mechanical engineering need to have are:

  • N3 engineering drawing

  • N4 engineering science

  • N4 industrial electronics

  • N4 mathematics

  • N5 fluid mechanics

  • N5 electro-technics

  • N6 control systems

  • N6 mechanotechnics

  • N6 power machines

  • N6 strength of materials

  • N6 fluid mechanics

  • N6 supervisory management

It is essential to note the NQF level at which these subjects. For example, you could have done draughting (i.e., engineering drawing) at NQF level 5. If that is the case, you may meet the engineering drawing's subject requirement (N3, NQF level 2).

Note: The above subjects may have pre-requisite. The Department of Employment and Labour will evaluate that you have the above subjects. And the TVET college needs to ensure that you have the pre-requisite subjects to deem your qualification and the above subjects valid.


Conclusion


Refrigeration mechanics can qualify for the GCC Factories - provided they meet the requirements set out above.


The vital GCC Factories requirements for refrigeration mechanics are as follows:

  • Obtain your trade test

  • Obtain N6 qualifications

  • Complete minimum subjects for GCC Factories mechanical applicants

  • Gain mechanical operation and maintenance experience in a factory environment

  • Compile and submit your application with the Department of Employment and Labour


You need to formally apply with the Department of Employment and Labour to be allowed to write the Government Certificate of Competency Factories exams. Don't waste time trying to work out if you have all the subjects.


My advice is simple - When in doubt, submit your application with the Department of Employment and Labour, and you will receive a comprehensive response on your eligibility. It may take anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks for the Department of Employment and Labour to respond.


As a refrigeration mechanic with a National Technical Diploma (N6), you will apply for the Certificate of Competency as Mechanical Engineer (Factories) (GCC Factories in mechanical engineering).


It is essential at this point that you review:

The above will help get a better understanding of the requirements and bring you one step closer to getting your Government Certificate of Competency (GCC) factories letter of acceptance from the Department of Employment and Labour.


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