Grace Gregson might be following in her pop’s footsteps by studying mechanical engineering at NMIT.
“My Pop is a mechanical engineer, and always has been,” she says.
But as a young woman in a male-dominated industry, she’s also forging her own path and helping to tip the gender balance.
Grace enrolled in NMIT’s Gateway Programme when she was still at Nelson Girls’ College, which allowed her to get industry experience while completing NCEA.
She called Health Botica, co-director of Anchor Engineering(external link) in Nelson, and asked if she could come in one day a week.
After finishing secondary school, Grace started the one-year Certificate in Mechanical Engineering and bumped up her work experience to two days a week.
“I found the pre-trade programme was just the right balance of putting your feet into the water but not jumping all the way in. You still got the two days of work, but still had the safety of a classroom,” Grace says.
“Having all the lathes and the mills in the engineering machine shop was quite handy.”
NMIT Mechanical Engineering tutor Kevin Edgar says the programme covers the basics of fabrication, general engineering, machining, and fitting, which prepares students for a wide range of roles.
“Engineering is pretty much a guaranteed profession and that's the value of it. This year we had eleven students finish the course and, of those, there were at least seven students with apprenticeships or with jobs that will lead to apprenticeships.”
Grace is now doing the managed apprenticeship programme through NMIT and Anchor Engineering, working full-time and completing her studies simultaneously.
“Here at Anchor Engineering, they're amazing. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to learn this trade in.”
Grace says studying and working in a male-dominated industry has helped her to be stronger and more confident.
“You know, when one of the guys tells you, ‘You're on the way, you're going to make a great engineer’, it’s always nice to hear.”
For Anchor Engineering co-directors Heath Botica and Jan Vuillermin, Grace is the first female apprentice they’ve had in 20 years of business.
“We (women) can engineer as well as men and, in Grace’s case, sometimes a lot better,” Jan says.
They’re both very supportive of Grace and really value the way NMIT trains their engineers and supports their apprentices.
Grace says she will graduate from NMIT as a general engineer, but would like to work in a machine shop.