Collaborating to promote engineering


Following a successful Week of Engineering in Wellington, a cross-industry group is already planning for next year's schools programme and public open day. "We'd like to roll it out to other centres," says Eliza Sutton from Opus, "but we need to find local advocates to get the initiative moving in other regions."

Collaborating to promote engineering

Last year, senior managers from Beca, Opus, AECOM and MWH were discussing their companies’ efforts to promote engineering and concluded that the key to success is collaboration. They developed a cross-industry Week of Engineering, linked to Engineering e2e’s public awareness campaign Make the World and supported by Engineering New Zealand

Read about how the Week of Engineering started
See the Week of Engineering website
See the Make the World website

Schools programme

Year 11-13 students from throughout the Wellington region and as far north as Palmerston North were invited to attend one of five day-long workshops hosted by Beca. 150 students were involved, with others on the wait list missing out.

Futureintech Ambassadors and other volunteers delivered presentations about the variety of engineering roles, took students on site visits and ran a problem-solving activity.

Public open day

A public open day showing how engineers make Wellington work – Engineering a Stronger City – aimed to raise awareness of what engineers actually do and encourage more people to consider a career in engineering.

The weekend event was held at the Wharewaka function centre on the city’s waterfront, to take advantage of people passing by. Despite bad weather on the day, over 1,000 people attended. Engineers representing a wide variety of disciplines talked to visitors about their jobs and encouraged them to try out interactive displays or take part in competitions.

There was a great atmosphere in the room, and a number of exhibitors noted on the day that they would be keen to get involved again next year.

Working together is key

The Week’s success was due in large part, says Mike Kerr of Beca, “to it being an independent initiative rather than run under one company’s branding. We were supported by the different companies involved.”

Engineers Without Borders NZ had a booth and Executive Director Carys Everett says there was a lot of interest throughout the day. “It was great. Students and parents were interested in the different applications engineering can have within a humanitarian scenario, and keen to talk about career possibilities, tertiary options and opportunities such as travel.”

As well as highlighting what engineers do, the open day was an opportunity to show the different pathways into engineering.  WelTec Head of Engineering Graham Carson found it a valuable way to engage with and inform potential future students. “I saw a lot of parents who’d brought their children along to get a better idea of what engineers do.”

He was contacted later by one parent who said, “My children enjoyed it so much and are now seriously considering engineering as a career choice. We were buzzing after the expo and a lot of my friends are keen to go to the next show if there is one.”

Considering a similar initiative?

The open day was a huge unknown, Eliza says, “so it was great to see so many people attending. There was lots of positive feedback; people commented that they hadn’t appreciated that engineering could open up so many opportunities.”

She says it’s important to work with industry advocates right from the start, and advises anyone considering a similar initiative to have people who are passionate about the event on the committee. “Keep the committee quite tight, to control it, but draw on industry support to develop small parts of the overall programme.”

“There were lots of lessons learnt from a planning perspective, but that’s expected!”

Even bigger in 2017

The committee plans to repeat everything next year on a larger scale. They have booked a much bigger venue for the open day and hope to have up to 500 students on the schools programme.

At this stage, the committee is looking to extend the Week to other centres around the country but, Eliza says, they need to find local advocates for it to go ahead.

Our thanks to Eliza, Mike, Graham and Carys for their time and advice; if you have any queries, please get in touch

September 2016