Summer of Engineering bridges the gap

A person in an bright orange safety vest is working on the a metal machine in an industrial warehouse.

Tapping into fresh talent

If tapping into fresh talent isn’t part of your recruitment strategy, you’re missing a trick. That’s according to Radium and Peek Robotics general manager Nick Ormrod, who says enlisting help through Summer of Engineering to find interns over the summer is invaluable.

Summer of Engineering is an expansion of the successful Summer of Tech internship programme and is a partnership between Summer of Tech, WellingtonNZ and Engineering NZ.

It’s also an initiative in the Wellington Regional Economic Development Plan, which aims to guide the long-term direction of the economy and help drive high-impact economic initiatives over the next 10 years.

Based in the Hutt Valley, Radium is a successful software company, and Peek Robotics leverages technological advances.

“The Summer of Tech programme is a valuable business resource. As a small company, it’s hard to compete against big businesses and banks in a talent-short market,” says Nick.

It’s a recipe that has proven successful over the past five years. In that time, Nick has hired 11 interns, eight of whom have become full-time employees.

“They are intelligent, capable people who bring an open mind and deliver quality results. In return, they get hands-on experience and opportunities to learn.”

A person wearing an orange safety vest, using a tool to work on a piece of equipment as a part of the Summer of Engineering internship programme.

Invaluable real-world experience

At Peek Robotics, the interns jump into real work immediately, usually leaning toward their strengths or preferences, undertaking tasks ranging from 3D modelling and printing to design or software development.

Harvey Morison, 22, interned for Peek Robotics over the summer and having already finished mechatronics engineering at the University of Canterbury, he’s returned to finish his science degree. For businesses, Harvey says interns bring in new ideas and fresh mindsets.

“I wanted to get more experience in a real-world job as opposed to just relying on what I was taught at university. I also wanted help deciding what I want to do after I finish my science degree and what area I want to go into.”

Fellow intern Jack Pugh, who’s in his fourth year of industrial design at Massey University, has put his skills to work in a professional setting and built connections along the way.

The 21-year-old has also gained a deeper understanding of 3D printing with complex materials and design for production and assembly.

“I knew getting into the industry as a designer could be challenging, especially without connections. I thought it would be beneficial to get my name out there while I’m still studying and start building a network since a lot of job opportunities can be through word of mouth.”

2 people working on a computer in hi-vis at an Engineering firm.

Luke Forrester says internships help develop skills they wouldnt necessarily gain in their studies.

Start-ups offer a bright future

Another Hutt-based firm, Hot Lime Labs, has been involved in Summer of Tech for the past four years. Specialising in creating clean CO2 for horticulture, Hot Lime Labs’ Tijs Robinson says the three interns he had this summer proved invaluable.

“We had clear areas where extra enthusiastic science and engineering students could be utilised, plus we wanted to show students that there is an amazing future for them in start-ups, not just corporates, academia or off-shore,” he says.

“We got a huge amount of them at a critical time in our business when we were finalising our first commercial-scale system.”

For University of Canterbury mechatronics engineering honours graduate Luke Forrester, the stint at Hot Lime Labs was his fourth internship.

Internships are a win-win situation, says Luke. “It’s a chance for students to tap into a wealth of experience, developing skills they wouldn’t necessarily gain in their studies. It’s also a chance to form new connections, which can be incredibly helpful in finding career opportunities.

“For businesses, interns often bring novel approaches to problem-solving, which is essential for a growing business. They also provide an opportunity to develop the next generation of talent and potentially even find new full-time employees.”

In the summer of 2022/23, the pilot Summer of Engineering programme saw 15 engineering students from all over the country undertake internships, 12 of them in the Wellington region.