Automotive Trimmer

Automotive trimmers are qualified tradesmen who are responsible for upholstering motor vehicle seats, lining their roofs, floors and door panels and also installing windows, windscreens, backrest boosters, trimmings and leather coverings in the interiors of motor vehicles. 

Automotive trimmers use tools and equipment such as scissors, needles, tongs, hammers, screwdrivers, and special sewing machines.  They first remove the door handles and then detach the upholstery and trimmings from the door panels, floor, roof and seats.  Trimmers need to choose the right type of material for every part of the vehicle.  Thereafter, the new material needed is marked and cut according to patterns and sketches. 

After the upholstery and lining have been completed finally, they replace all hinges, handles, and other trimmings and perform any finishing touches that may be necessary to the interior of the vehicle.  Materials are waterproofed if necessary.  Automotive trimmers are also responsible for checking that the seats of the vehicle are fitted in the correct position. Some trimmers specialise in working on the interior of vintage cars.

Because trimmers work mostly with new materials, the workshop is usually relatively clean and pleasant. Various machines and tools, such as various types of cringes (leather, synthetic leather and vinyl) and special sewing machines, are available and workshops are well lit and ventilated.

There is not much demand for trimmers in large motor factories today as it is done mostlty by machine, but panel-beating firms and the motor manufacturing industry have vacancies occasionally.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Grade 9 Certificate.

What to Study

There are three 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 (Technical Vocational Education and Training) 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 vehicle manufacturers
  • automotive body repairers
  • larger private garages and workshops
  • upholstery factories

Further Information

MerSETA (Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services)
P O Box 6848
Marshaltown, 2107
3 Metropolitan Park
Hillside Rd
Parktown, 2193
Tel: (011) 544-1316 Fax: (011) 484-8620

Getting Started

  • make an appointment to speak to an automotive trimmer about this type of career and ask to observe them at work
  • try to obtain vacation work with a large vehicle manufacturer or in an upholstery / furniture factory or at least visit one of these places
  • take shop courses to become familiar with the use of tools

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations