Women’s Month Profile – Valencia Hendriks

Standing tall no matter the odds leads to a stellar career

Times have certainly changed for highly experienced SAIW Lecturer, Practical Examiner and Technical Consultant Valencia Hendriks who encountered a fair degree of resistance when she first entered the welding profession but has proven that women most certainly have what it takes to have a highly successful career in welding…

Q.Please give a brief outline of where you grew up, went to school and completed your tertiary education?

A. I am originally from Cape Town and grew up in Mitchells Plain and Belhar. I attended St Andrews Technical High School in Elsies River and studied at UNISA and later at the SAIW.

Q. How did the first years of your career/first job/s build on what you learnt at university/college but in a more practical setting? What were the key lessons you learned during this time?

A. I started my welding career at SA5 Engineering and worked on the Koeberg Power Station. After the completion of the project, I worked for CBI- Chicago Bridge and Iron on the Saldanha Steel Project from 1997 to 2004 where I got my in-house training as a Welder on small bore pipes doing GTAW and SMAW process.

After the Saldanha Steel project, I worked for Globe Engineering undertaking ship repairs, I welded on high pressure piping and pressure vessels for a few engineering companies and filled the position of a welding supervisor and Inspector. In 2008, I did my first course at the SAIW, Inspectors Level 1.

With my Inspectors Level 1 qualification and my welding experience, I landed my first job as a welding lecturer at West Coast College.

Q. How and when did you come to work at the SAIW?

A. Etienne Nell my previous manager visited the campus where I was employed and he acknowledged my skills and abilities and was very impressed with me. He advised me to apply for the vacant welding lecturer/consultant position at the SAIW. I applied for the job and I relocated to Johannesburg in 2013.

Q. What is your current position and please describe a typical day in your job?

A. I have a restructured position working as a Welding Lecturer/Consultant/ Practical examiner and I help with the day to day running of the practical welding school. I am also part of the marketing team of SAIW and provide consulting services to companies when needed.

Q. Why do you feel that welding skills have such an important role to play in getting South Africa’s economy back on track following the COVID-19 pandemic?

A. Welding is an essential skill within manufacturing which is a sector that holds significant opportunities for uplifting South Africa’s economy and decreasing the unemployment rate. In South Africa, 80% of manufactured products and maintenance require welding, offering aspiring welders as well as cutting and grinding operators, employment opportunities.

Q. Why does the SAIW have such an important part to play in this economic recovery and the overall success of the fabrication and manufacturing sectors in particular?

A. The SAIW is dedicated to providing world-class practical welder training benchmarked against international welding standards and international welder programmes. The SAIW therefore strives to ensure that when a candidate exits, they are assured of good prospects in securing employment with excellent financial rewards.

Q. What do you consider the most exciting innovations/developments in the welding technology sector over the last five years?

A New welding technologies are available that allow for much more efficient production. This is important as contractors, manufacturers and fabricators are always looking for ways to reduce costs, improve quality and finish projects faster so they can be more competitive.

Robotic welding and remote control welding technologies also offer numerous benefits, particularly in job site applications. With remote control solutions on the market, operators have complete control of welding parameters at the weld joint using the wire feeder or remote, eliminating the need to walk back to the power source to make changes. This results in less wasted time and more arc-on time, helping operations complete more welds and achieve higher overall productivity.

Q. What is your life philosophy/a phrase or sentence that sums up your approach to life and work?

A. Remember, the only way you can fail is if you give up. Every time you fail, you come one step closer to success. Stand tall and show the world what you are made of. When the world beats you down, find a reason to get back up again.

A. Have you found being a woman in a largely male-dominated industry difficult, interesting, inspiring or all three and why?

A. In 1997 when I entered this industry welding was a male dominant skill and it wasn’t easy to fit into the engineering environment as a female.

Some men were proud of my achievements and were willing to help me reach my goals but others felt threatened and unfortunately, some of them tried their utmost best to demotivate and discourage me from having a career in welding.

For example, one of my supervisors used to remind me that welding is not for females and suggested that I should be at home raising my kids. He also always gave me the most difficult tasks to do. Perhaps he thought that would make me give up on welding but proving him wrong was a huge motivation and I turned out to be one of his best welders, with the lowest repair rate compared to my male colleagues!

After that difficult start, never in a million years did I think I would one day progress as far as a Welding Technology Lecturer and Practical Welding Examiner at the SAIW but mindsets have changed over the years and women are now far more accepted in our industry.

Q. What is one of the most important lessons you have learnt in life and who or which situation did this stem from?

A. The road to success does not happen overnight. Whether they are large or small, your everyday actions, activities, and encounters ultimately determine your success. Success comes when persistence and hard work are combined. Only perseverance and commitment can lead to success.

Q. What are your personal goals and your goals for the SAIW in the next year?

A. My main goal for SAIW is to provide good customer service. My personal goal is to contribute to making a positive change in society by sharing my knowledge and experience with my students to foster their personal development and help them to build our economy.