INDUSTRY LINKS CASE STUDY
Pertronic Industries is launching a pilot internship programme for secondary school students and has employed a school leaver on a special short-term contract. It's all part of the company's long-term view to recruitment; providing experience and encouraging tertiary study in the hope that graduates will return to where they started.
Establishing a school/industry relationship
In 2016, St Bernard’s College careers advisors approached Pertronic industries to enquire about placements for Gateway students – senior students who get structured workplace learning once a week. Production Manager Stephen Mills says that this scheme didn’t really fit with the company’s needs at that stage.
He was interested, however, when Physics teacher David Housden contacted Pertronic midway through this year, to enquire about full-time work for a Year 13 student. David explains that Josh was a very able Physics student who wanted to leave school and get work experience, so that he could decide if he enjoyed engineering before committing to a career.
“We have been pushing to get younger people into the business,” Stephen says. “The average age of our staff was around 40 a year ago, and we are keen to get some younger employees – they can often pick up the new technologies quicker, and we wanted a more diverse way of thinking.”
Having had a positive experience when a school student worked during the holidays, Pertronic was open to employing students who show potential. Stephen invited Josh, his father and David to meet and discuss a work experience opportunity, then offered him full-time work until the end of 2017. It came with one condition – Josh had to enrol at Te Kura and complete his NCEA subjects by correspondence in his own time. “Stephen made it very clear,” says David, “that if you don’t have the appropriate qualifications you’re in trouble. So, Josh will be actively engaged in education while learning various trade skills in the factory.”
Secondary school internships
The school-industry relationship then led to a pilot internship programme. Pertronic is offering two internships to St Bernard’s students – the recipients will be employed over the Christmas holiday period and, all going well, during school holidays in 2018.
David took a group of 15 Year 12 Physics students to visit the factory, and notes that it was a learning experience for him also. “Finding out about some unusual manufacturing practices, the large number of employees, and where the products are sold overseas.”
All the students were impressed with what they saw and the wide range of areas they could work in. “They were interested to see that a manufacturing facility can be a quiet work environment. Some of the students are quite quiet, so that appealed to them.’
Half the group decided to apply for an internship – each student has to make a submission and will be formally interviewed. As Year 13s, the interns will have the whole year to decide which areas of engineering most appeal and whether a career in engineering is for them, and to consider any opportunities that might arise at Pertronic.
A seamless transition
At this stage, Pertronic is “dipping a toe in the water”. Employing Josh was a trial, as is the internship programme – the company is looking at other ways they might support school leavers or employees to study towards an engineering qualification.
That might involve financial support towards a New Zealand Diploma in Engineering or Bachelor of Engineering Technology – Pertronic is located 6-10 kilometres away from WelTec and The Open Polytechnic in the Hutt Valley – and possibly a bonding scheme, where students are required to work for a set amount of time after graduation.
These measures could potentially lead to a seamless transition in recruiting skilled staff, who also bring the intellectual capital they gained when starting at Pertronic. Students could get an understanding of the industry, along with specific electrical, mechanical or software engineering skills, support for tertiary study, and then return as graduates.
Our thanks to David and Stephen for their time and advice; if you have any queries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Josh working at Pertronic Industries
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