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The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) Aviation Engineering programme prepares students to work in this field, helping to fill a nationwide skills shortage.
Caitlin Lumsden completed the two-year Aviation Engineering programme at NMIT, which included a work placement at Heli Maintenance Limited, run by Pip and Dave Ives.
Caitlin was taken on as an apprentice at Heli Maintenance - a Christchurch firm with 15 staff, five engineers and two apprentices - just two weeks after graduating.
Pip says when employing apprentices and engineers they look for personalities that will fit into their team and a high level of mechanical knowledge. It’s also important to have common sense and the ability to think for yourself.
“Caitlin is great, she came in with a good foundation from the programme and has a good mechanical knowledge.
“You need to be professional and the NMIT graduates have the right attitude.”
Heli Maintenance has employed NMIT graduates before and offers student placements when they can.
Workshop Floor Manager James McNutt says it’s important to have the two-year programme under your belt before going into an apprenticeship.
“You need to know the theory behind it. Then they know why we do things.”
James says there’s a “dire lack of engineers” in the aviation industry in New Zealand, which means there’s plenty of opportunities for students and graduates.
Helicopters are widely used in two of New Zealand’s biggest industries - tourism and agriculture.
As tourism continues to grow, demand for engineers will also increase.
Heli Maintenance extended their hangar by two bays last year to cater to the growing need for helicopter maintenance and repairs.
James says that helicopter engineers get to work on a wide range of aircraft, but there’s also the opportunity to specialise in particular types of helicopters.
The demand for aviation engineers isn’t limited to New Zealand and James says he’s seen staff move onto lucrative contracts overseas.
If you’re thinking this could be the career for you, you can start learning before tertiary study by developing your mechanical knowledge by working on cars or other engines and a basic interest and knowledge of aircraft.
Learn more about the two year programme at NMIT: New Zealand Certificate in Aeronautical Engineering