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Callaghan Innovation empowers women in STEM careers

17 Feb 2020

Last week marked an important milestone for women in science and technology, as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science encouraged a new generation to tackle the world’s major challenges.

New Zealand’s own Callaghan Innovation and Hutt Science became part of the milestone by hosting 45 female students in Years 11-13 at the Gracefield site in Lower Hutt. The site is home to exciting hi-tech sensors, 3D printing, and precision measurement. 

Meanwhile in Auckland, almost 50 Year 9-13 students covered everything from engineering and big data to bioengineering and augmented reality.

Callaghan Innovation CEO Vic Crone says that STEM jobs are an important part of New Zealand’s future.

“We are seeing serious demand for STEM skills from the businesses we work with in frontier industries like robotics, food science, aeronautics, big data, smart transport, health technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and sustainable energy,” says Crone.

“But in New Zealand there is a huge STEM skills shortfall. We simply don’t have enough young people pursuing careers in these fields - and we know in particular, it’s been a struggle to lift female representation. STEM careers are much more dynamic than many expect, now powering creative industries and solving social and environmental problems.”

Callaghan Innovation supports hundreds of scientists and engineers, including Agnetha Korevaar. She helps businesses to solve problems and get ahead with science and technology.

“For me what matters most is love, which is expressed in tangible ways of helping other people. And I see tech as a really cool way to do that. It’s why one of my favourite areas is assistive technologies which help people with disabilities or injuries,” says Korevaar.

Callaghan Innovation notes that metrology fields (measurement precision) are struggling to attract young talent with current experts moving towards retirement. Key industry players that rely on precise measurement capabilities, in aerospace and Food and Beverage for example, are desperate for fresh talent. 

“University isn’t always the only option,” says Nina Wronski who is gaining her qualifications on the job as a measurement technician with New Zealand’s Measurement Standards Laboratory. 

“Like a lot of young people I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left high school. I didn’t know what metrology was before I came here and I was curious to find out. I like learning new skills, gaining new knowledge and am challenged every day.”

Callaghan Innovation worked with partners Hutt Science, Victoria University of Wellington’s Ferrier Research Institute and Robinson Research Institute, along with our fantastic Auckland event mentors including Lisa Wong (Crown Equipment), Ngapera Riley (Figure Group), Laura Pedovsky (Auckland Bioengineering Unit), Luisa Jamieson, Jennifer Trittschuh and Helen Cuddy (Fisher & Paykel), Kimberlee Jordan (Unitec) and Hilary Barker (UoA Medicine).