Week dedicated to exposing students to opportunities within Engineering Industry

Posted on 2016-08-04 by CM

The article was written by Laura Dooney / FAIRFAX MEDIA

Wellington secondary school students are getting an inside look at the world of engineering this week, as industry insiders attempt to bridge a gap in the industry. Monday marked the beginning of Engineering Week, the first week of its kind in New Zealand. Over five days 150 students would learn about the myriad opportunities available in the industry at the Beca offices in Thorndon. The week and an expo to be held in Wellington on Saturday was organised by Opus, Beca, MWH and AECOM.

It was linked to a public awareness campaign launched by the Engineering, Education to Employment programme, which was set up in 2014 to help achieve a government goal to boost engineer numbers. One exercise saw students designing a floating home for a lake in Cambodia, using straws, water balloons, polystyrene cups and cardboard. Last year the government said there was a shortage of around 500 technically trained engineers coming through polytechnics each year, but the shortage across the industry could be double that, Beca regional manager Mike Kerr said.

As an organisation Beca had been working to promote engineering for the last 10 years. This year was the first time it was being done on a bigger scale. "Engineering is involved in all of the bits of our daily interaction with the world, people misconstrue it as just being ... buildings and roads, and it's absolutely not." Engineering was for anyone who wanted to make a difference to the world around them, engineer Nina Ives said. The 23-year-old had studied engineering science at Auckland University, and now worked for Beca on roading projects in the Wellington region. She felt there was a misconception that girls wouldn't find engineering as interesting as boys, and that it was only for students at the top of the class. An interest in maths and physics was important, but students didn't have to be especially good at either of them, just prepared to work hard.

Liv Sawyer a year 10 students from Onslow College had previously thought engineering was a narrow area. She'd found out there were options within the sector she hadn't known existed.  Year 13 student Ben Secker from St Patrick's College, Silverstream had thought engineering was more about computers and software, but now realised it was about a "whole lot more". High schools across Wellington agreed while they did not necessarily push engineering over other career choices, there were aware the sector was diversifying and getting bigger.

At Tawa College there was an increased emphasis on STEM, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, principal Murray Lucas said. Every second year engineering firms and ex-students who had entered the field came and talked to students as part of career education.

Scots College headmaster Graeme Yule said many students were interested in engineering at the school, but needed to be taught to be creative, with the school linking in design and technology. "The jobs are changing within engineering, so we try and prepare them and give them different skills they might need."

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Nina Ives - Beca business performance consultant troubleshooting with students Liam Thompson, Danae Abolins-Thompson, and Liv Sawyer.