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Rosie Wall, Gilmour Space Technologies

Rocket scientists take centre stage

Hosting inquisitive high schoolers created an unexpected professional development opportunity for Australian space company

The benefits of work experience for high school students are clear: a chance to test out what career you might like (or not), meet people in the industry, and enjoy time outside the classroom. On the other hand, the benefits to businesses that host the students can be less obvious - but have proved pleasantly surprising.

Head of Corporate Operations at Australian rocket manufacturer Gilmour Space Technologies Rosie Wall recently supervised a group of four high schoolers for a week of virtual work experience run by the CSIRO in partnership with the Department of Defence. Gilmour Space Technologies have partnered with Defence since 2020 to jointly develop defence-related space technologies. 

Rosie thought the learning experience would be entirely on the students’ side, so she was surprised to discover that her colleagues got unexpected value from the interaction too. Throughout the week, the space company’s team members took turns presenting their work to the group, and talking about their career paths. “It was super easy to get my colleagues involved and they ended up really enjoying it,” says Rosie.

Rosie Wall, Head of Corporate Operations at Australian rocket manufacturer Gilmour Space Technologies ©  Gilmour Space Technologies, Belinda Simpson

For the bona-fide rocket scientists such as the engineers and technicians, face time with people outside the company to talk about their work is rare. The audience of information-hungry students proved to be the perfect setting for practising public speaking. “[The scientists] actually enjoyed the opportunity to develop that skill set, and tell their story. Some were nervous, but this was a very low risk environment for them to start to get that practice,” she says.

Rosie admits that while working in Australia’s fledgling space industry is thrilling, like any job the initial excitement wears off after some time. “That’s why I love talking about this work with kids because they’re so excited, and it reminds me that yes, this work is really cool.”

The students spent the week learning about the space industry. On day one, Rosie asked each student about their interests, which ranged from becoming an engineer or company founder, to 3D printing and graphic design. Rosie took a semi-flexible approach, with CSIRO’s suggested timetable and a general plan for the week in mind, and then crafting the daily schedule in direct response to the students’ passions. “I kind of winged it a bit… Months before, I had blocked out the time in my calendar. It’s honestly not that hard to free up 2 hours a day for a week.”

Rosie challenged the students to write a pitch for their own space company, to be judged together with her colleague Gilmour Space Technologies Chief of Staff Nick Lindsay at the end of the week. Rosie and Nick were so impressed with the quality of the presentations that they shared the students’ ideas with the CEO Adam Gilmour. “He asked me whether there was a way to flag the students in our HR system for the future!”

Rosie says having supervised the program once, she would do it again. “Now I know that the pitch challenge I set is the kind of project that works, as it has that degree of flexibility so you can dial it up or down, and adjust it to the interests and skill level of the group.”

You can create unexpected learning opportunities for yourself, your colleagues and high school students too. Applications to host virtual work experience students are open today. Find out more in the Frequently asked questions and apply to become a supervisor now.

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