Collaboration between Waikato engineers and educators is being upheld as a New Zealand model helping meet sector skills shortages. Waikato Engineering Careers Association (WECA) manager Mary Jensen said the region’s engineers and educators are among the best organised in New Zealand when it comes to working together to combat sector skills shortages. WECA, an incorporated non-profit organisation funded by members, was formed in 2003 by Hamilton companies concerned at the shortage of skilled engineers.
“We have been building on this collaboration and Waikato is fast becoming a centre of excellence for mechanical engineering in New Zealand,” Jensen said.
As well as promoting engineering careers to secondary school students, WECA works to connect technology teachers, tertiary organisations, industry training organisations and engineering graduates with businesses at events throughout the year. Engineering for Educators, an annual WECA event hosted by companies such as the Gallagher Group, GEA Avapac and, this year, TetraPak, takes technology teachers to the coalface of industry, connecting them with engineers and giving them a glimpse inside a global engineering business.
“Our mission is to provide Waikato employers with a sustainable flow of engineering trainees and job seekers skilled to meet the needs of the engineering industry. It’s great our region’s engineers and educators are so committed to this.” Skills shortages in the sector are exacerbated by mechanical engineering being a “hidden” industry not often seen in the media making promotion extremely important, said Jensen.
“Young people and their parents often aren’t aware of how to enter mechanical engineering as a career and that makes it difficult. The more businesses and educators who get on board with promoting these careers, and the educational pathways within them, the better.” She adds that partnerships with Wintec, the University of Waikato, industry training organisations and secondary schools, along with the dedication of more than 80 WECA members, make the organisation one of the strongest of its kind in the country.