From cleaner to trainee mechanic: young females eager to make it in the motor trade

Nicola Edward removing a vehicle sump at Merc Auto World in Rivonia, where she is receiving training as a mechanic. Picture: Supplied

Nicola Edward removing a vehicle sump at Merc Auto World in Rivonia, where she is receiving training as a mechanic. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 12, 2024


By Siyabonga Ngcangisa

The motor repair industry has for years been seen as a "man's world", but one workshop owner has decided to defy the notion and give it an all-gender revamp by employing young women.

Last year, Nico Lagidze, the owner of Merc Auto World in Rivonia, Johannesburg, ran a campaign where he called on female motor mechanical engineering students to apply for an internship to train as mechanics in his workshop.

But the candidates he found showed little enthusiasm, and Lagidze, as if to prove his determination in changing the face of the male-dominated industry, put up an advertisement for a female mechanic, and a suitable candidate responded.

But one woman was not enough, so he decided to train a teenager who had been working at the business as a cleaner, into motor mechanics.

Reneilwe Masoga mechanic at Merc Auto World.

And within three months, his workshop had added into his team two youngsters: Reneilwe Masoga ,19, and Nichola Langutani Edward, 21.

“This is a milestone for us because it's something we've been intentional about for a while now. When we started the campaign where we looked for young women to join us, it was strictly on the basis of empowerment,” Lagidze said.

“We wanted to prove that industrially, women are as equally capable as men, but only need a chance. But we just couldn't (immediately) find the right candidates. These two youngsters are eager to learn and they have great attitudes, exactly what we are looking for".

Masoga, who only matriculated two years ago and started at the workshop as a cleaner, said when Lagidze offered to train her as a mechanic, she thought it was a joke.

"He said so, are you interested or what, and I said yes, with joy. It's baby steps, I can do the basics now like service and diagnostics. I'm taking it easy for now but I'm happy," she said.

Her fellow youngster, Edward, said when she walked into workshop late last year, she had a little bit of exposure from the few workshops she had job-shadowed at.

Nico Lagidze, Nicola Edward and Reneilwe Masoga.

"I had earlier seen in the news that Nico was looking to train young females and I went to see if he had found any. I told him all about myself and said I'd like an opportunity and fortunately, there was space for me".

The pair said sometimes vehicle owners reacted awkwardly to the idea of their cars being serviced by young girls, but they always silence the sceptics with quality work.