Roll Turner

The trade name of a 'roll turner' is descriptive of the work. A metal blank is formed (turned) to a specific shape required for the rolling of steel in a rolling mill. Railway rails are one of the products made by roll turners.

At rolling mills metals are shaped by passing heated metal blocks back and forth between the specially formed rolls of a mill stand, until the desired shape and length have been obtained. Roll turners form and shape these sets of rolls by means of lathes and specially prepared tools such as templates (patterns) until they conform to the specified shape.

Working from blueprints, roll turners clamp steel blocks in giant lathes and cut the desired grooves into the steel blocks, using cutting tools. Roll turners constantly check the shape and size of the grooves on the roll against a template (pattern). In this way the rolls, to be used in rolling mills to shape other steel blocks, are manufactured.

Personal Requirements

  • at least 16 years old
  • meticulously accurate
  • able to concentrate for long periods
  • very careful worker
  • responsible
  • enjoy working with your hands

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • Grade 9 Certificate.
  • Some employers prefer higher qualifications.

What to Study

There are 3 ways to qualify as a registered artisan:

1. An apprenticeship is a fixed contract between company and apprentice, ranging in duration from between 18 months and 4 years. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test leading to professional certification.
2. A learnership is a structured learning programme ranging from about a year to 3 years. A learnership comprises theoretical and practical training. Practical training is conducted on site (on the premises of the organisation). This has the advantage that the learner gets experience whilst training.

3. TVET colleges offer theoretical training to prospective artisans via the new National Certificate Vocational (NCV). During this 3-year programme (levels 2 to 4), learners complete a school-leaving certificate (NCV) similar to the new National Senior Certificate (NSC) in schools. They are also exposed to a practical workshop component.

All learners are required to complete a practical internship under the supervision of an experienced artisan. As an alternative to doing the full qualification, a learner can apply to do a skills programme at a TVET College. Skills programmes are short practical hands-on courses.

For more information about qualifications and skills programmes, contact your nearest TVET College. TVET Colleges are accredited and funded by a SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) such as MerSETA or ChietaSETA. They also receive bursary funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the NCV programme.


  • large engineering enterprises
  • Transnet
  • Mittal Steel
  • such companies as Highveld Steel and Vanadium Corporation

Further Information

Any of the above mentioned potential employers and

MerSETA (Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services)
merSETA House
95 7th Avenue, 
Corner Rustenburg Road, Melville, 
Johannesburg, 2109
Tel: (010) 219-3000

The Steel & Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA)
6th Floor, Metal Industries House
42 Anderson Street, Marshalltown
Johannesburg, 2001
Tel: (011) 298-9400

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in a large engineering company
  • arrange to speak to a roll turner about this type of career
  • contact the Department of Labour about learnership possibilities in your area

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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