WiE CAN: engineer a career

In January next year, 60 Year 13 students from across Aotearoa New Zealand will discover the career opportunities engineering has to offer women when they attend a hands-on programme run by the University of Canterbury (UC).

Photo caption: Applications are open now for the UC Women in Engineering Canterbury (WiE CAN) residential programme 2021, which will feature a range of interactive workshops, inspirational presentations and fun social activities.

Applications are open now for the Women in Engineering Canterbury (WiE CAN) residential programme 2021, which will feature a range of interactive workshops, inspirational presentations from women engineers, and fun social activities. Over five days the high school students will be immersed in UC campus life and experience the broad range of engineering subjects on offer at the College of Engineering | Te Rāngai Pūkaha.

“Engineering is big, there’s so many really interesting areas you can get into. The aim of WiE CAN is to give the students a flavour of each discipline in a fun and exciting way,” explains Electrical and Computer Engineering Lecturer Kim Rutter, Academic Lead of the WiE CAN programme.

“We get the students working together in teams for activities and challenges, which is a really important part of engineering – we work with other people to solve problems. And it also means if the students come to UC they already have a support system. When they walk into a room for the first time, they will recognise someone.”

Rutter says the WiE CAN programme is part of UC’s commitment to boosting the number of female graduates and increasing diversity in engineering.

“Engineering as a profession needs to be more diverse in all areas. If you get one group of people who all think the same looking at a problem, you’re probably going to get a certain set of solutions. If the group is more diverse, you’ll get a better set of solutions,” she says.

Rutter trained as a Civil and Structural Engineer but has worked in a variety of engineering roles in New Zealand and overseas. She says a career in engineering can offer a lot and be incredibly rewarding.

“Engineering skills are very transferable. A UC engineering degree is internationally recognised, you could work all over the world. As an engineer you have the opportunity to make a real difference and give back to society. Engineers are solving the world’s big problems – problems like climate change, access to clean water, renewable energy, security of data, food production, communications, and protecting communities hit by natural disasters.”

She says students who are currently in Year 12 at a New Zealand high school, are studying physics and maths, and are excited to explore the possibilities engineering offers should apply for WiE CAN.

Sarah McKenzie, 18, from Auckland attended WiE CAN in 2019 and says the experience cemented her decision to study engineering at UC this year.

“At school I really loved science, and I wanted to study something that could help me to apply science to a real-life scenario. Engineering seemed like the perfect fit. It’s a really broad field so I’m able to study a range things I’m interested in before specialising in one field,” says McKenzie.

“WiE CAN not only showed me how cool engineering can be, it opened my eyes to the community of women in engineering who are some of the most interesting and smartest people around.

I learned so much about UC and engineering, and I met lots of new friends – many of whom I’m mates with now we’re at uni together,” she says.

McKenzie says a stand-out moment of her WiE CAN experience was an electrical engineering workshop.

“Working in pairs, we got to build a mini solar-powered cart and write code to control it. We then tested our cart against others under a UV lamp and our cart won the race, which was definitely a highlight.”

She encourages those thinking of applying to attend WiE CAN 2021 to go for it.

“Don’t worry if you don’t know much about engineering or that you won’t fit in with the others on the programme,” she says.

“It was fun experience and everyone was really supportive. Give it a go!”

More information about WiE CAN, including how to apply, is available here. Applications close Friday 4 September 2020.

For further information contact: UC Communications team, media@canterbury.ac.nz, Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168