Reaching out to students, teachers and parents


NorthTec's Secondary-Tertiary Pathways Project (STPP) team has focused on engaging students, teachers and parents with engineering, through events such as the Dream Big movie night. Next year they'll launch a Year 13 Engineering Secondary Tertiary Programme, which will include a NZDE Engineering Fundamentals paper and a Physics achievement standard contextualised to engineering.

Taking a systematic and opportunistic approach to building relationships

Building relationships with schools and industry relies on finding “the right person to carry the torch” says Mirko Wojnowski, NorthTec Project Lead – Development Unit. He takes a systematic approach – emailing and phoning teachers, careers advisors and employers – and an opportunistic one. “If I hear about someone through social networks, I get in touch.”

It’s a strategy that pays off. Following up one lead, for example, established a promising relationship with a Year 9-10 STEM teacher at new charter school Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa.

Engaging teachers and careers advisors through engineering events

Running engineering taster events and information days also serves to engage teachers and careers advisors. One teacher was so enthusiastic about the opportunities in engineering that he now plans to study towards the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE)!

Promoting engineering with Dream Big movie

A public screening of Dream Big proved very successful. The film is an initiative of the American Society of Civil Engineers, shared through Engineering New Zealand. It focuses on the teamwork and humanitarian aspects of engineering, aiming to inspire young people to become engineers.
Dream Big film

Mirko pitched the event at secondary school students and their parents, with Opus funding the screening at a Whangarei theatre. 150 turned up to watch the film, listen to a panel of engineers, and chat over supper. The panel, comprised of engineering leaders, a second-career engineer and an engineering cadet, gave presentations about their roles and career pathways.

Talking about career opportunities and the ‘doability’ of NZDE maths.

The engineers discussed local opportunities in engineering, the advantages of the NZDE and the practical application of maths and science. One pointed out “The maths in the NZDE is very doable.” – an important message for that audience. Another commented that he now appreciates maths, although he didn’t at school, it because he uses it every day at work.

Parents in particular asked lots of questions afterwards and appreciated the opportunity to talk directly to people in industry during the evening. “Some were very enthusiastic,” says Mirko, “coming up to say that their child was really inspired after watching the film.”

The STPP team distributed leaflets about engineering careers and pathways. Five students who have since enrolled to study towards the NZDE have mentioned the event as important in their decision. Others who attended contacted NorthTec later to find out more about the programme.

The team also showed the film at a Dargaville theatre and Kamo Intermediate, following each screening with a presentation about the NZDE course at NorthTec.

“Think vocationally, think jobs”

“We’re pushing the message about local opportunities,” says NorthTec Youth Development Manager Julian Blank, “Telling students to ‘think vocationally, think jobs’”. Increased Government funding over the next decade for infrastructure in the region means civil engineers will be in high demand.

Current demand for skilled workers comes with cadetship opportunities. Civil engineering tutors say any capable NZDE student who wants a cadetship will usually get it. This model of study can, says Mirko, make it easier for students in the far north. “They don’t necessarily need to travel to Whangarei every day, but come maybe once a week. And they can do a few first-year papers online.”

Industry field trip for career ‘influencers’

The STPP team has organised an industry-focused event for student ‘influencers’ in Term 4. The group of mostly teachers and careers advisors will go on a field trip to the Opus testing lab and a refinery. They’ll get to talk with managers and engineering cadets about different engineering disciplines and opportunities for their students.

Conference presentation to Maths teachers

The team attended the New Zealand Association of Maths Teachers conference to give a presentation, with a Maths teacher from Whangarei Boys’ High School, about the NZDE pathway. Teachers were very interested and asked lots of questions about Engineering e2e and the STPP programme.

Planning a Year 13 NZDE programme

NorthTec will run a Year 13 Engineering Secondary Tertiary Programme which will include a NZDE Engineering Fundamentals paper and a Physics achievement standard contextualised to engineering. It will be similar to the programme at WITT. Completing the Engineering Fundamentals paper will give students a head start if they enrol in the programme. They will also be partnered with industry mentors to ensure further connection and support with engineering careers.
Case study: Promoting the local option (WITT)

After school tutoring for Year 12-13 Physics students

Mirko is trialling a Year 12-13 after-school tutoring session, funded by NorthTec. The student focus group he set up earlier this year identified support with physics as the intervention perceived as most helpful towards engineering study. Most of the 20 students are girls, thanks to “My operatives in school,” says Mirko, “two keen Whangarei Girls’ High School students who spread the word about our careers events.”

The team will review this initiative and possibly repeat it in 2018. One concern, notes Mirko, is whether they’re reaching enough potential engineering students rather than those who just want extra help with Physics.

Our thanks to Mirko and Julian for their time and advice; if you have any queries please contact

Image courtesy of Futureintech

November 2017