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Waikato engineers establish hub of excellence

Establishing Waikato as a New Zealand’s hub for engineering excellence is the aim of a new-look Waikato Engineering Careers Association relaunched in August. 

The fresh approach by engineers in the region aims to foster a vibrant engineering sector through attracting and developing skills vital for the future of the sector, a significant contributor to the region’s exports. 

WECA’s new strategic plan is being applauded by Waikato economic development leader Dallas Fisher, who says the collaborative approach by the industry plays an important role in regional growth. 

“Waikato engineers are taking a strategic and focused approach in fostering and attracting the talent our region needs to prosper. We strongly support the work of WECA and see it as crucial in establishing our regional and global reputation as a hub of engineering excellence,” Fisher, chair of Waikato Means Business, said. 

Fisher addressed engineers and educators at the WECA relaunch at Stainless Design in Hamilton, where he outlined the synergies between key goals of regional economic development and the association. 

“Looking ahead as a region there are very serious skills shortages looming over the next few decades. Other industry sectors need to follow WECA’s lead in a more collaborative approach to working to combat these challenges,” he stated. 

WECA was founded by Waikato engineering businesses in 2003 to collectively address skills shortages, and has a membership of more than 30 businesses who employ about 2500 engineering staff between them. 

Mary Jensen – manager of WECA – said the revised approach by the association will further enhance the membership offering by better leveraging strategic alliances with the economic development agency, tertiary providers, industry groups and changemakers. 

“WECA is recognised as the voice of engineering in our region, and has done a great job of lifting the profile of this hidden industry. The number of Mechanical Engineering apprentices in Waikato rival that of the entire Auckland region. Now it is time to better develop and attract the engineers we need for the future by broadening the scope of our work. It’s about collaborating and combining resources and remaining innovative to best meet the big picture needs of our sector and region,” she said. 

“WECA members are known for actively attracting and developing the next generation of engineers, developing their own talent from within and focusing on quality people, processes and products,” she said.  

The organisation will continue work to promote the sector to secondary school students, particularly via EVolocity Waikato, a regional competition where students design, build and race their own electric vehicles. 

“EVolocity gives students hands-on experience with multidisciplinary and innovative engineering practices. We’ve already seen some talented students who have taken part in this competition employed by WECA members.” 

Other WECA events include Engineering for Educators, taking secondary and tertiary technology teachers from the classroom to the coalface of industry and Engineering in Action, where students visit engineering businesses.  

WECA’s work aligns with the five strategic economic development priorities for the region – maintaining and building the region’s location advantage, growing global industries, making business easier, building, attracting and retaining skills and talent and telling the Waikato story.    

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