Leonardo inspiring the next-generation of New Zealanders into engineering careers

29 March 2023

In recognition of the strength and opportunity within the New Zealand engineering sector, and the need to keep it innovative and sustainable by attracting local students into engineering-based jobs and careers, a team of STEM ambassadors from our UK helicopters facility travelled thousands of miles to share examples of engineering with school students.

The STEM team, based at our Yeovil site, visited 14 schools and universities in total, reaching over 400 students aged 12-17, and 30 teaching staff, from the south island of New Zealand in a bid to inspire them to consider a career in engineering. 

As part of the Southland and Otago Regional Engineering Collective (SOREC) Academy launch, the team provided STEM sessions across a number of schools and colleges in Auckland, Dunedin, Invercargill, and Queenstown.

In a team-working exercise, groups were given the challenge of carrying out an urgent rescue constructing a helicopter with a number of materials. They were asked to design and create a system that could safely drop a rescue hoist to an individual. After being briefed on the importance of using sustainable engineering materials, the students had to decide on its construction using their budding engineering skills. A strict time limit was set to add to the sense of urgency of the task, honing the students’ problem-solving skills that are such an essential part of being an effective engineer.

The Leonardo team took every opportunity during the sessions to highlight how STEM subjects can provide key life skills that can be transferred into an engineering career. Students were encouraged to think through their tasks like aerospace engineers, using their communication skills, team work, and problem-solving abilities. 

Speed network sessions with the Leonardo team helped students to step into engineering roles and imagine themselves in those positions. They were asked to communicate key features of their responsibilities, helping them to dig deeper into what various engineering career pathways would feel like by adopting those identities. 

Sarah Ramsay, SOREC Board Member and the CEO of Dunedin company United Machinists, attended the two hour workshop at Kings High School. Sarah said: “The purpose of the SOREC Academy is to attract youth into the huge variety of pathways and career opportunities in engineering. To manufacture a helicopter it takes design, project management, accounting, electronics, software development, precision manufacturing and fabrication. Leonardo provided a really tangible exercise on how these disciplines are all brought together, the engagement from students was fantastic.” 

Grace Hynes, Teacher at Ormiston Junior College in Auckland, commented: “Having the team from Leonardo in was such an amazing authentic learning experience for our students! They loved how engaging and different their tasks were and are still buzzing about it a week later. The Leonardo team were so kind and patient with the learners and supported them through their challenges and opened their eyes to the how wide the career possibilities in STEM are.”

Franca Gericke, Head of Physics at Southland Girls School, said: “Our students enjoyed learning about the different career and study pathways that are offered through Leonardo. It was particularly interesting to hear from all the team members and get a first-hand insight into what is involved in the different aspects at Leonardo Helicopters. The activity that the Leonardo Team ran with our students was a lot of fun and well suited to the Rōpū (cohort/group of students) and was well enjoyed be every students, a perfect mix of challenging and fun.”

Mia Robinson, Leonardo Business Administration Apprentice, reflected on the trip: “Our aim has been to educate, attract, and inspire students of all ages into engineering through STEM activities, which we have tried and tested successfully in the UK. The key takeaways for these events is for students to develop and grow their communication, problem-solving, and team work skills.”

Join Mia in a review of the trip on our Instagram channel.