IAES participants stand in front of Sydney Harbour Bridge

High school students set sights on engineering career

1 March 2023

Inspiring the profession’s future leaders

High school students from across the country spent six days gaining hands-on engineering experience and getting to know the University of Sydney thanks to Engineering Aid Australia's Indigenous Australian Engineering School.

Twenty-six Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students have travelled from across the country to experience life at the University and see firsthand where an engineering career could take them.

Open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students in years 10-12 who have an aptitude for maths and science, the Indigenous Australian Engineering School (IAES) is established and ran by Engineering Aid Australia and hosted by the University of Sydney.

Covering travel, accommodation and living expenses, the program sees students spend six days living on campus while tackling hands-on activities, participating in industry site visits, and taking part in networking events.

After facing COVID-19 related challenges over the last few years, in 2023 the program returned in full, with students tackling hands-on activities, building their networking skills, and learning about the pathways to an engineering career.

IAES participants on a site tour

The busy itinerary saw students attend several site tours

As well as touring the university's engineering facilities, students attended networking functions and industry site visits.

Many students were able to secure future work experience and internships, with Aurecon, Google, Honeywell and SMEC among organisations to offer future learning opportunities.

This year also saw IAES alumni and Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Mechatronic Engineering) and Bachelor of Commerce graduate Marcus Valastro return as a mentor and house parent.

Darwin born Valastro attended the IAES twice himself in 2015 before making the move to Sydney to study, and says he had always planned to return.

"I've been wanting to get involved with IAES since I started studying at the University, as the School was something that really helped me", said Valastro.

The program lets you see a lot of facets of engineering: around the university campus, by visiting different industries, and also through talking to people from different industries and career stages.
Marcus Valastro, IAES alumni and house parent

This sentiment was echoed by participant Phoebe Raisbeck, who travelled from regional New South Wales to attend the School.

"IAES is a great way to experience all the different types of engineering and see how they work, make life long connections, and grow your contacts and work experience opportunities", she told the program organisers.

Engineering Aid Australia CEO Tracey Dennis describes the IAES program as an opportunity to create life changing experiences for many First Nation students, and has her sights set on growing their opportunities.

"IAES was originally born from a conversation between Engineer Jeff Dobell and the then Dean of the Faculty of Engineering to address the underrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in the Engineering Industry," she said.

"Following last year’s launch of our Future Directions Plan 2022-2025, now is a perfect time for me to continue the passion shown by our Board of Directors and utilise my skills, knowledge, and experience to implement our short-term and long-term goals."

These goals include following the journeys of IAES students and strengthening ties between students, university, and industry.

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