Following the success of RDA Hunter’s GIRLS WITH A MISSION (GWAM) pilot in 2022, the program launched earlier this week as a flagship mainstay of the organisation’s long-running, Department of Defence-funded Program.
Giving students to opportunity to engage with female leaders in STEM and aerospace, GIRLS WITH A MISSION aims to increase female awareness of aviation and engineering skills and careers in the local defence industry.
The program engages school students in a two-day workshop program to help improve their technical knowledge in STEM and build enterprise skills such as teamwork and communication.
The program was delivered in partnership with the region’s defence industry including BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin Australia, Boeing Defence Australia, and RAAF Base Williamtown.
The two-day workshop program saw students construct and test-fly a model aeroplane to complete a scenario-based aid mission.
Industry representatives provided one-on-one mentorship to students during the activities and overviewed their career journeys so students could ‘see what they can be’.
Doubling capacity in 2023, the program comprised two two-day workshop programs and reached 48 students from 12 Hunter high schools.
The workshops were staged at TAFE NSW Newcastle (Tighes Hill) Aviation Skills facility and TAFE NSW Newcastle teachers delivered the educational components of the activity.
University of Newcastle Aerospace Engineering representatives also attended and helped guide students through the activities.
RDA Hunter’s CEO and Director of Regional Development, Mr Trevor John said the organisation’s ME Program, which is funded by Australia’s Department of Defence, has been delivering programs and activities to increase student awareness of the defence industry and aviation careers in the Hunter region since 2009.
“Our programs link Hunter schools and Hunter defence industry to help build the defence industry workforce of the future,” Trevor said.
“We’ve been successful in inspiring students to study STEM subjects at school and higher education and consider careers in the sector locally.
“We’re delighted that GIRLS WITH A MISSION garnered such interest and support this year. It meant that we were able to reach more students from more schools.
“GIRLS WITH A MISSION and activities like it, are only possible because of the unwavering support of our defence industry partners, some of whom have been working with us since the inception of the ME Program 13 years ago.
“They are instrumental in helping us create programs that are both interesting to students, and that teach the workforce skills they need.”
TAFE NSW Team Leader, Aviation and Aerospace, Andrew Trease said the program provides a solid platform for students to gain exposure and understand more about what a career in aviation involves.
“We have spent time checking the needs of industry and building our relationships with the local schools and employers in our region and it’s wonderful to see everyone coming together for this unique experience,” Andrew said.
“The students taking part are getting access to practical, hands-on training alongside potential future employers, which is invaluable.
“We are committed to meeting the demand for skilled workers in the aviation space and it’s programs like this that generate the interest from the workforce of our future.”
According to Lu Taylor, Engineering Studies teacher at Merewether High School, programs like GIRLS WITH A MISSION have a positive impact on girls who are considering choosing science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) studies in their senior school years.
“Activities that engage students in the practical applications of STEM are important in helping them commit to further study in the area,” Lu said.
“The real benefit of the GIRLS WITH A MISSION program is not so much the construction of the planes, although it teaches the girls a lot, but the direct interaction that the students are able to have with our region’s defence industry.
“It’s an invaluable learning experience and motivator for our students to be able to engage directly with successful women in STEM.“