Investing in internships can help to keep junior employees in the profession and develop the in-demand skills of an experienced engineer.
They can also be part of the solution to Australia’s “greatest-ever engineering skills shortage”.
Engineers Australia estimates that more than 50,000 engineers will be needed across most disciplines over the next few years.
Due to the challenging employment market and business needs, NAUTITECH®, an international engineering and manufacturing company specialising in underground mining equipment, partnered with Generation STEM Links in 2022.
Change starts with industry investing in future talent
NAUTITECH® has been operating since 2000. It currently employs 34 staff at its headquarters in Western Sydney, with the intention to grow over the coming years.
But growth often starts with hiring the right people.
“Recruiting takes a lot of time, and during the past two years, it’s been difficult to hire engineers,” says NAUTITECH® Engineering Manager Mojtaba Ghaderi.
“Generation STEM Links has been outstanding. Specifically in terms of the students’ level of expertise and the opportunities we’ve been able to give them,” he says.
With over 13 years of experience in designing safety electronics for the mining industry, Mojtaba mentored university students Callum and Geoffrey over the course of their 12-week placement.
This internship has led to both students being offered ongoing roles at NAUTITECH® which employs mechanical, software and electrical engineers.
Mojtaba says the candidates placed through Generation STEM Links were better suited in terms of values and skills than when they advertised on job sites.
“I was looking for a senior automation engineer for a long time,” he continues.
“In my interview with Callum, I asked if he’s used LabVIEW automation. And fortunately, he had at university. No other candidate had that experience. So, I recruited him.”
Mojtaba wants other businesses to support paid internship programs like Generation STEM Links.
He says it’s a way of investing into a more sustainable future.
“In five years, these interns will be experienced engineers working in the industry. Skills shortages impact every market,” he notes.
“It’s vital that everyone contributes. It’s like having a solar panel on your roof. Even though you’re contributing a little bit, you’re still making a difference.”
The value of an engineering internship
As the first two interns were finishing their placement and transitioning to full-time work in late 2022, NAUTITECH® took on two more students, Hayden and John, from the University of Technology, Sydney through Generation STEM Links.
John is a second year electrical and electronic engineering student, while Hayden is in his third year, studying product design and creative intelligence and innovation.
Hayden shares that before applying to Generation STEM Links, he was constantly looking for internships on CareerHub, Indeed and SEEK.
“I found a few, but they were hard to communicate with,” he says, adding, “the application process with Generation STEM Links was easier and clearer. I felt comfortable, and the response was quick.”
Since starting their internships at NAUTITECH®, they’ve learnt new skills, received mentorship and gained insights into the workplace, their chosen fields, and potential future.
Offering a paid internship is one of the most important ways industry can strengthen the engineering workforce.
They help keep students in the profession and provide valuable work-integrated learning opportunities.
However, these opportunities can be challenging for students to find.
“A lot of students in my cohort who are about to graduate are worried because they haven’t been able to find internships offering the right experience,” says Hayden.
“Throughout my degree, I was constantly looking at CareerHub. I’ve now had so much practice with interviews, which has given me more confidence.”
As Hayden nears graduation, he offers some advice to students.
“Try do an internship in your first or second year because that’s when you’re probably the least busy. I’m in my third year, and it’s very challenging.
“Internships also give you a glimpse into your future. So, if you realise that you don’t like the industry, you can switch courses. Whereas, if you do it in your third year, it’s harder to change and start over,” he says.
Investing and mentoring student engineers
Both students struggled to find an internship that offered payment, training and flexibility. They believe that organisations need to do more to help students at the beginning of their careers.
“Internships give students a good visualisation of what they’re about to face,” says John. “It’s also a way of giving back to the junior community and help them gain knowledge.
“Many businesses want to expand their infrastructure, so they need to hire more people. If they have the facility to provide adequate training, this would be the best way for them to accumulate more people by training juniors.”
NAUTITECH® Executive Chairperson Aga Blana further says, “If you want to be ahead of the game, have access to talent and want to move forward, investing in the next generation is the only way. Generation STEM Links is now part of our organisational structure.”
NAUTITECH® plans to continue participating in Generation STEM Links and is also investing in building an intern hub to accommodate more interns and offer them a place to connect, interact and relax.