Employee success stories: Tembela Phike

Sea Harvest electrician, Tembela Phike, is determined to keep pace with technology by continually upgrading her skills. 

 

Thirty-six-year-old Tembela, or Tembi as she is known to her colleagues, first became aware of the field of electrical engineering when the Eastern Cape village where she grew up was electrified. 

 

“I got inspired by the lady who was climbing the pole,” reflects Tembi, remembering a female Eskom technician who worked on the electrification project. “I told myself that I wanted to become an electrician, but I didn’t know that the electrical field is broad. In my mind I thought becoming an electrician would mean working in the field of energy. I thought I could only work for Eskom, I didn’t know I could work for other companies too.”

Realising her ambition to work as an electrician took time and determination.  After overcoming financial difficulties, Tembi completed her National Certificate (N3) qualification and then secured a bursary to cover the cost of her practical education. But once she had completed her training, she struggled to find an apprenticeship, taking a job as a general worker to make ends meet. 

Tembi’s big break came in 2016 when she saw an advertisement for an apprenticeship with Sea Harvest. She applied and was appointed as an apprentice at the company’s large processing factory in Saldanha Bay.

“I qualified in 2019,” she says, “and then I got fortunate enough, or maybe because of my abilities, I got appointed as a permanent, qualified electrician.”

Today she works in the value-added part of Sea Harvest’s factory. Her job is to maintain and repair the industrial machinery used to produce a wide range of value-added products, including fish fingers and crumbed and coated fish portions. She is also responsible for maintaining the electrical fittings – mainly plugs and lights – in the building that houses the processing machinery. Tembi shares the work load with another electrician, working shifts according to the processing schedule of the factory. 

Not satisfied with what she has achieved so far, Tembi is continuing her studies and is currently working towards a Government Certificate of Competency in electrical engineering. The certificate is essentially a license that enables professional engineers to supervise the safe operation of machinery in a factory, or on a mine. Tembi also has plans to achieve a wireman’s license, a certificate that allows qualified electricians to work as electrical contractors. 

Driving her ambition is the knowledge that technology is advancing rapidly and she needs to keep pace with

“I’m looking to get qualified and (acquire) more advanced knowledge of PLCs,” says Tembi, explaining that a “programmable logic controller” is an industrial computer that has been adapted to control a manufacturing process.

Pointing to a motor she is testing and repairing, Tembi explains that in future the motor will not be operated manually, it will be programmed electronically. Her ambition is to gain the knowledge she needs to operate industrial computers used in manufacturing. In so doing, she hopes to secure her future in the electrical field