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UC research into attitudes to defence work

UC research into attitudes to defence work by engineering students

November 26, 2012

A University of Canterbury (UC) researcher has recommended to the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) that the Navy offer summer employment to engineering students.

UC intern researcher Susie Koo said summer employment would be a great way for students to experience what working as an engineering officer for the Navy would be like and also help to get some positive exposure.

As part of her internship with the NZDF, Koo looked at attitudes towards the NZDF and Navy as viewed by UC engineering students. She had to determine if anything could be done to make engineering students consider the NZDF and or Navy as viable employers of choice.

``From my research findings it was clear that there was a general lack of awareness of the NZDF and the engineering roles it offered. When engineering students thought of prospective career options they named private consultancies and firms such as Beca and Aurecon but they did not really consider the NZDF as a potential employer.

``Also, the limited knowledge that students had on the NZDF and the Navy was outdated or based on misconceptions. For instance, students believed engineering officers in the Navy would get a significantly lower salary compared to other prominent engineering employers and that there was not much opportunity given for career advancement.

``In the survey I conducted at the ENSOC Careers Fair almost 40 percent of students that participated indicated that they expected to receive an annual salary of $50,000-$55,000 after graduating. After six months of initial training engineering graduates begin their careers in the Navy on a salary packed of $69,325.

``Also, the Navy has a clear system of ranks in place for career advancement but many students had the idea that they would be “stuck” in the same position or job for a long period of time.

``The problem effectively came down to the lack of appropriate awareness and knowledge of the NZDF and RNZN. Engineering students at UC believed that the NZDF and the Navy placed too much importance on `hands-on or practical’ work rather than a chance to put their engineering degree and academic abilities to good use. In reality, engineering officers will spend more time on land than at sea and they will be given every opportunity to use their academic abilities.’’

Koo said engineering students that were interested in the NZDF and the Navy liked the idea of travel opportunities, the involvement in peacekeeping work and humanitarian assistance as well as the chance to make great friends.

Engineering students at UC must secure work experience as part of their engineering degree requirement. Koo recommended summer employment in the Navy for engineering students.

The Navy had a general brochure targeting secondary and tertiary students. However, Koo said university students did not like being categorised with high school students and seeing information about NCEA was off-putting and dissuaded them from considering the Navy as an employer.

Having a separate brochure specifically tailored for university engineering students was likely to be beneficial for the Navy in terms of recruitment, she said. Koo’s internship was supervised by UC arts intern director Dr Jessica Johnston.

Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Tony Parr said the UC research was good feedback and they would be taking on board Koo’s findings.

``I’m interested to hear that students’ perceptions of the Navy do not match the reality. The Navy is a rewarding career and our doors are always open to New Zealand’s best and brightest.’’

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