Ventia employees pictured with students at the Science Spinner Hub event

A group of high school students in the Waikato region (around Hamilton, New Zealand) were introduced to the practical application of what studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) could lead to, with the guidance of representatives from Ventia's New Zealand Electricity & Gas and Telecommunications businesses.

As part of the Kudos Science Trust's Science Spinners program, their newly launched STEM Hub invited industry partners like Ventia to help open up the world of STEM trades to year 9-10 students and show them some of the exciting career opportunities available.

Sharing experiences and skills with students

Junior Project Manager Annabelle Fraser, Oil Lab Manager Taylor Horwood, apprentice Electrician Christine Swepson and Project Supervisor Shaun Thompson spent two days in Hamilton demonstrating their skills at one of a series of engineering stations.

Annabelle has been with Ventia for a couple of years, and over that time has learned a lot about the infrastructure services sector through on-the-job training and external project management courses.

Each group of students at the two-day program spent around 15 minutes at Ventia's station, where they learned about some of the specialties Ventia has in New Zealand. 

"One of the activities involved a fibre-splicing display where kids learned about how they get internet to their devices," Annabelle said. "Another involved a drone simulation, where we explained how we use drones to inspect electrical conductors for damage and vegetation overgrowth." 

"This one was popular as the kids were able to have a go at the simulation on TV where they could fly the drone and inspect the conductors themselves."

Pictured: Ventia employees at the Kudos Science Trust's Science Spinners program

Revealing career possibilities

Annabelle said sparking curiosity for careers they may not have known existed was a key focus for the event:

Getting up close to the equipment was a great learning experience for them, and I hope that it inspires at least some of them to consider a career in engineering or a STEM-related trade.

Digital Network Infrastructure Project Supervisor for our Telecommunications business in Waikato and Bay of Plenty, Shaun Thompson, says that he was keen to be involved in this initiative when he got the call up. 

"I enjoyed showing kids the pretty cool technology we work with in Telco," Shaun says. "When we demonstrated how thin the fibres are that support our telecommunications networks, how our technicians splice them, and how data flows through such a small fibre, their minds were blown!"

Shaun says he's looking forward to the opportunity to do this again and hopes to be able to convince kids that a career in telecommunications is one they should consider. 

It's great to show them that you don't have to have a uni degree to succeed, trades are just as important and satisfying.

Students at the Kudos Science Trust

Empowering female students

An additional benefit of this program is the emphasis on introducing female students to STEM.

Senior Finance Manager in our Electricity and Gas business, Mirabel Ji, says that improving diversity in our industry will be assisted through programs like this.

"It's imperative to start with young people, to plant the seed of interest and inspire them so we see a mindset shift," Mirabel says. 

We need to show young female students that anything is possible and that we have lots of opportunities for them at Ventia.

Science Spinners was launched by the Kudos Science Trust in 2016, with the goal of providing at-risk high school students with the opportunity to gain a practical understanding of science and STEM careers. 

Their Creative Lab program engages students in a series of hands-on science activities to encourage their learning potential and broaden their future career prospects.