The Women in Engineering Leadership Association (WELA) is a joint initiative between the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) and the manufacturing, engineering and related services SETA (merSETA) and is aimed at empowering young female engineers at the institution.
Elisabeth Malatji, one of it’s young industrial engineers, attributes the confidence she has developed in manufacturing to the Women in Engineering Leadership Association (WELA). Malatji, a Graduate in Training at General Motors South Africa (GMSA), is one of the women who have received invaluable support during her under-graduate years from the WELA programme.
Malatji was introduced to WELA during her first year of studies. She says the mentoring she received equipped her for her role in “the real world.”
“One of the lessons I learnt at WELA was how to build my career portfolio and how to conduct myself during an interview which came in handy when I applied for the graduate-in-training programme. I was also fortunate enough to study in Germany through a University exchange programme made possible by WELA.”
Working in the bodyshop at GMSA’s Struandale plant, Malatji’s role includes problem solving and finding ways to make improvements to the manufacturing process. “At WELA women are taught skills with which to better themselves in the workplace, especially in our field which is still largely a male dominated.”
WELA is one of five projects initiated and managed by the merSETA Chair in Engineering Development. Together with the NMMU, merSETA initiated the programme with the aim of empowering those who pursue a career in the South African engineering sector.
Mentoring programmes include, academic development workshops, self-development leadership, factory visits, technical projects, panel discussions and student counselling.
Through GMSA’s sponsorship of the Chair in Mechatronics at the NMMU, the company regularly invites young engineers in the WELA programme to visit the plant.
Dr. Ann Lourens, Department Head of Industrial Engineering at the NMMU, said the university and merSETA have recognised the importance of promoting and developing women into the emerging field and to market it as a desirable career aspiration.
“It is the intention of WELA to focus on academic, professional and personal development of women in engineering and be of service to the community,” said Lourens.