Setting the pace for women in engineering

July 7, 2022

Apprentice Jadzia Pyne is halfway through her Fitting and Machining Engineering apprenticeship and thinks she has the best job. As part of the team of 11 at the University of Auckland’s Technical Services Workshop, every day is different.

The workshop makes, modifies, and repairs equipment used in research and teaching throughout the University. With a broad spectrum of knowledge, state-of-the-art equipment, and proven engineering practices, the workshop team are involved in designing, engineering, and manufacturing a wide range of electronic, machined, and fabricated parts of every level of complexity and sophistication.

It was the wide range of work that Jadzia found appealing, and it helped make her decision to commit to an apprenticeship and pursue a career in engineering.

“All the jobs are interesting, and I get to use lots of different mediums, not just metal or plastic. We have 3D printers and laser cutters. I enjoy doing everything, but particularly the mill and lathe work. I’m now doing work which requires the use of Computer Aided Machining (CAM) software to design jobs and program them ready for the CNC machines.”

Jadzia attended Waitakere College in West Auckland. In year nine she chose to try engineering and enjoyed it so much she continued with it, joining the college engineering academy in year 12. Once immersed in the academy, Jadzia knew she was in the right place - even though she was the only girl in her class.

“The teachers were hugely supportive of my choice. I remember my engineering teacher saying that women make great engineers because they are meticulous, detail orientated and focussed.”

At that stage Jadzia was focussed on several things: busy with school, holding down a part time job, and heavily involved in Scouts Aotearoa. Achieving her Queen’s Scout Award, the highest award a youth member can earn, was a huge achievement, but Jadzia also acknowledges the influence Scouts has had on her personal growth.

“Scouts has set me up to be independent and resilient. It’s also taught me time management.”

Through the college’s engineering academy programme, Jadzia undertook a welding and fabrication Gateway course at Unitec. The programme then gave her the opportunity to get real life work experience. A placement at the University’s workshop over 12 weeks exposed Jadzia to the variety of projects the workshop undertakes.

Workshop Manager, Steve Warrington was impressed by Jadzia’s ability and attitude, offering her permanent employment and a fitting and machining apprenticeship at the end of her Gateway placement.

“One of the challenges we face is finding young people who want to learn and want to commit to an apprenticeship. We put a significant investment into it so we want someone who will give us commitment and see it through.” explains Steve.

“I have had a relationship with Waitakere College for over eight years now and I’m really impressed with how they promote the trades. We have another Gateway student on placement with us now, but Jadzia is the first female we have employed through it. I would encourage other female students to try out the trades.”

With an apprenticeship secured and supported by work-based training organisation Competenz, Jadzia was successful in being awarded a $1500 trade scholarship from the Waitakere College Foundation. That year she also received the inaugural Prime Minister’s Vocational Excellence Award for Waitakere College. This award was launched to celebrate the achievement of secondary students enrolled in vocational programmes. It raises the status of vocational education and training as an attractive option when you leave school. Along with the award is a $2,000 monetary prize.

Now involved in producing components for projects that come into the busy workshop, Jadzia is also gaining an understanding of the information required to build them. She is assigned her own jobs, and if information is missing, she contacts the customer directly.

“I’ve worked on everything from servicing a weather radar, reassembling a lathe – which included remaking and replacing a pinion gear for the lathe, to designing and fabricating welding tables for the University’s student workshop,” says Jadzia.”

“When I have things to focus on for my unit standards, Steve will try to assign me jobs which are aligned to it. For example, I needed to produce evidence of dismantling and inspecting components within assemblies, so I dismantled and serviced a coolant pump.”

Jadzia wants to encourage more females to enter the trades.

“Don’t get put off by the fact that you don’t see many women in the trades. You are not disadvantaged as a woman. Just find out what you want to do and go for it. I feel very fortunate, I really like my work here and I’m planning on staying on so I can become a senior technician.”

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