Sunday, June 23, 2024

Defence camp inspires female STEM students

The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) have joined forces to support teachers and encourage more young women into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers.

Forty teachers from across the country attended the teachers’ edition of the combined School to Skies and School to Seas Camp, which was held at RNZAF Base Auckland at Whenuapai and Devonport Naval Base last week.

The camp aims to empower teachers to arm their students with confidence and curiosity, and inspire a potential career in STEM.

Breanna Moller from St Joseph’s School, Kaikōura, at the Royal New Zealand Navy Bridge Simulator as part of the School to Skies and School to Seas Teachers’ Edition Camp.

School to Skies programme lead, Squadron Leader Matthew Pitts said the teachers gained hands-on experience in the aviation and maritime industries, and the camp provided them with new educational tools and ideas, as well as introducing them to the inspirational career opportunities available to their students.

“The School to Skies forms part of the RNZAF’s commitment to the New Zealand Defence Force Wāhine Toa programme,” Squadron Leader Pitts said.

“The aim is for participants to develop a learning experience which will inspire their students to pursue STEM career pathways and in turn help to increase diversity in RNZAF technical and aviation based roles.”

At RNZAF Base Auckland, the teachers were introduced to military skills, the principles of flight and aviation mission planning. They also boarded a C-130H(NZ) Hercules for a flight over Auckland with No. 40 Squadron.

School to Seas Project Lead, Lieutenant Commander Emily Kutarski says recruiting and supporting a diverse and inclusive workforce that represents all New Zealanders is also critically important for the RNZN.

“School to Seas certainly helps to show the range of career opportunities the Navy has to offer,” she said.

“The camp aims to introduce what life is like at sea, as well as break down stereotypes and barriers that may prevent women and other under-represented groups from enlisting in the Navy.”

During their time at Devonport Naval Base, the teachers were exposed to a wide range of naval activities, including experiencing what the day-to-day life is like for Navy personnel, as well as firefighting, navigation and leadership skills.

“New Zealand’s STEM workforce has less than 30 percent representation of women. Female students in New Zealand drop out of studying maths and science at a rate far higher than their male counterparts, and for Māori or Pasifika that rate is even greater.

“With global long-term shortages in the STEM workforce, we need to attract young women in order to sustain and grow our numbers both in the Navy and the wider maritime industry,” Lieutenant Commander Kutarski said.

The teachers’ edition of the School to Skies and School to Seas camp was hosted at RNZAF Base Auckland from 14-17 January and RNZN Devonport Naval Base from 17-19 January 2024. 

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