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I have a National Diploma in mechanical engineering - Do I qualify for the GCC factories?

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

Mechanical technician installing a pump

The purpose of this post is to present the specific GCC Factories requirements for persons with a national diploma (T4, S4 or similar) in mechanical engineering. The GCC Factories offers a unique opportunity to fast-track your career as a mechanical technician working in the factory environment.

The GCC Factories requirements for applicants with a National Diploma in mechanical engineering are as follows:

1. Must be at least 23 years of age

Ok, this one is simple, open your Identity Document (ID). Take the difference between your year of birth & the application year. If the difference is less than 23, you do not meet this requirement and must wait until you meet the minimum age requirement.

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 done longer 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.

3. You must have a National Higher Diploma (T4) or National Diploma (S4) in mechanical engineering

It is required to have a National Higher Diploma (T4) or National Diploma (S4) and received the necessary practical training to obtain the National Higher Diploma (T4) or National Diploma (S4).

Note: Persons with foreign mechanical engineering qualifications need to have the qualification evaluated by the Department of Higher Education. The Department needs to ascertain that the foreign qualification meets the equivalent South Africa qualification's minimum requirements.

Note: Persons with qualifications other than mechanical engineering qualification may still submit their application with the Department of Employment and Labour. The Department will determine the suitability of the candidate based on the qualification and experience.

4. You must at least have two years post-graduate experience in maintenance and operations of mechanical or electrical machinery

You need to have at least two years of post-graduate experience in mechanical or electrical machinery maintenance and operation. In this case, you will most probably have mechanical experience.

The Commission of Examiners must be satisfied that the experience is sufficient in terms of the practical application of technical, regulatory, and supervision matters relating to machinery maintenance and operation.

You will need to complete the experience record and letter of experience to demonstrate your practical experience.

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

  • Plan and prepare worksite, equipment, tools, consumables, and materials for mechanical activities and operations,

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

  • Test and inspect mechanical equipment and installations,

  • Commission mechanical systems and installations,

  • Maintain and repair mechanical equipment and installations,

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

  • Locating sources of problems by observing mechanical devices in operation, 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, and

  • Operating machinery safely and maintaining good housekeeping.

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 Employment and 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 Employment and Labour.

5. Must have at least 1-year experience in a factory

This one year experience in a factory could be part of the two-year post-qualification experience mentioned above. In other words, requirements stated under 4 and 5 may be concurrent.

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

Examples working environment considered to meet the requirements of working in a factory environment is as follows:

  • 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., and

  • 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 or manufacturing or heavy engineering environment. You must be responsible for ensuring that the mechanical machinery and installation are operating correctly and are maintained.

Relevant mechanical machinery you must be responsible for includes boilers, conveyor belt systems, pumps, etc.

6. Your national higher diploma or national diploma curriculum needs to cover the plant engineering syllabus. You must have passed all subjects by at least 50%.

Here comes the confusion. Firstly, national higher diploma or national diploma applicants do not need to complete "GCC Factories subjects."

The requirements from the Department of Employment and Labour is that your "Technikon" or educational institution needs to certify the following:

  • the completed curriculum covers the syllabus for plant engineering,

  • you met all the requirements to obtain the national higher diploma or national diploma (including the completion of practical training), and

  • you passed all your subjects by at least 50% (Note: You will need to repeat the subjects where you received less than 50%)

You can prove all of the above from just your statement of results and a copy of the educational institution's academic diploma.

Plant engineering syllabus
Download PDF • 161KB


Remember, you need to formally apply with the Department of Employment and Labour to be allowed to write the Government Certificate of Competency Factories exams. I found that many candidates waste a lot of time trying to work out if they 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. The Department of Employment and Labour takes between 4 to 8 weeks to respond.

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

The next step you should complete is to learn more about:


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