They say there is no substitute for experience - so six Northland teachers donned hard hats and hi-vis jackets as they took a day out to see engineering in action.
The teachers from five secondary schools all had some experience of engineering, but were keen to learn more by joining the professional development day at the invitation of NorthTec's Engineering Education 2 Employment (EE2E) Project.
The project is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) and seeks to address the vast shortage of engineers in New Zealand, especially at diploma level.
The group, which included Julian Blank, NorthTec's youth development manager, Ken Levinsohn, electrical engineering tutor, and Mirko Wojnowski, EE2E project lead, first heard Raymond Crawford from Opus talk about his cadetship study pathway.
This involves studying the NZ Diploma in Engineering (NZDE) part-time while employed and sponsored by a civil engineering firm such as Opus.
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Aaron Taitoko, from Tui Technology, then gave the teachers a tour of two electrical engineering sites in Whangarei: Carter Holt Harvey Woodproducts, and Donovan Group.
He explained the challenges of automating large industrial machines with electronics and software, and outlined the hiring process in the industry.
He stressed the demand for engineering graduates with practical experience, whether from the Bachelor of Engineering degree or the NZDE diploma.
Raymond and Aaron are both "ambassadors" for FutureInTech, an Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) initiative that is also aimed at getting more school students into technology, engineering and science.
The teachers were excited to see how engineering was applied in the industry.
Haggis Henderson, from Whangarei Boys High School, said: "Engineering is just science and mathematics put to work, and it is great to see people solving problems and earning a living applying those ideas."
Phil Buchanan, from Excellere College, said he was very pleased to get up-to-date information about the flexible pathways into engineering, and local opportunities for students to train without building student debt.
Other teachers taking part in the day represented Whangarei Girls High School, Kaitaia College and Te Kapehu Whetu.