A group of Newcastle high school students are getting an insider’s view into the steel industry and potential future career pathways.
Thirty-two Years 9 and 10 students from Callaghan College, Wallsend Campus, Hunter Christian School and St Philips Christian College are working with five InfraBuild employee mentors as part of a 20-week science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) -based learning and mentoring program.
The program, run by the GFG Foundation Australia in partnership with CSIRO and Prince’s Trust Australia, has been successfully running for two years at the Whyalla Steelworks in South Australia.
Working with the InfraBuild mentors, the students develop STEM-based projects that will benefit their local community.
InfraBuild’s Aaron Mahaffey, a program mentor and maintenance supervisor in the Newcastle Wire mill, said he was keen to make sure students were aware of the dynamic nature of the steel industry.
“Part of my passion in the steel industry is driven by it being a global industry,” Aaron said. “For this reason, to remain a strong competitive business, you need to be innovative, creative and sustainable.
“There are so many different roles and pathways within the steel industry, not just the shop floor workers making the steel.”
The student program, run by the GFG Foundation, supports the development of STEM-related enterprise skills and life-skills, through hands-on activities, industry excursions, STEM projects and mentoring with industry professionals. The program helps students explore career pathways.
Fellow mentor and Newcastle program coordinator Anne-Maree Willis said the program was critical to inspire the next generation.
“Manufacturing is no longer seen as a career,” said Anne-Maree, who added that she hoped the students would gain a greater insight to “the variety of options a career can take and that it’s ok to try a few things before you land on what you love”.
Infrabuild operating systems specialist Will Andrews, another program mentor who has worked within the steel industry for 28 years, said he hoped the program would show students that steel manufacturing “could be an exciting and rewarding” career choice.
While the program started with face-to-face 1.5-hour sessions, the challenges presented by COVID-19 and lockdown has seen virtual technologies and videoconferencing used to continue the program.
InfraBuild Human Resources business partner Kate Murphy, who got involved to help inform young people about potential career pathways, said she was struck by the participating students’ “intelligence, inquisitiveness and genuine excitement for learning”.
“We would be extremely lucky to have these students in the industry and in the company, in the future,” Kate said. “Over the last few weeks, we have moved our sessions to online whilst we are in lockdown, it is more challenging however the CSIRO team have done a fantastic job of preparing for us to move online and the students are adapting quickly.”
InfraBuild CEO and Managing Director Vik Bansal applauded the enthusiasm and participation of the students and mentors involved in the Newcastle program which aimed to support young people to reach their potential.
“Our people are very passionate about what they do and it’s terrific that they’re able to share some of their talents, knowledge and expertise and hopefully encourage young people to consider the career pathways available in the steel industry,” Mr Bansal said. “A thriving steel industry is critical to manufacturing and nation building in Australia, and through this program young people will get a glimpse at the very rewarding careers that are available within the industry.”
The Newcastle program will culminate with a showcase and celebration event when students receive recognition of their participation with a certificate and Bronze CREST Award for the successful completion of an inquiry project.
Visit the GFG Foundation Australia website to learn more.
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