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WGE offer mentoring to indigenous students

The ink was barely dry on the official endorsement of WGE’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) when the company was made aware of the outstanding STEM achievements of a small rural school in WA’s wheatbelt.

In 2017, Coolgardie’s Christian Aboriginal Parent-directed School (CAPS) was named the School of the Year at the Science Teachers Association of Western Australia (STAWA) Awards. Hotly contested, it was the first time in nearly 60 years that a school outside of Perth had won the title.

The accolades continued in 2018 with Year 12 student Uriah Daisybell crowned Young Scientist of the Year for his work researching and designing a water filtration system for rural communities.

After reading about CAPS’ achievements in the local news, WGE’s Vivienne Edwards was keen to discover how the organisation could help their students continue to develop their keen interest in STEM studies.

In late 2018, Vivienne was presented with the 2018 Women In Leadership Award at an event held by Urban Development Institute of Australia WA, where she was recognised for her commitment to mentoring young professionals and her advocacy of diversity in the workplace.

No stranger to mentoring, Vivienne participates in WGE’s Talent Development Program (TDP) where she partners up with graduate engineers to help support them transitioning into their careers and, hopefully one day, becoming Project Engineers.

With this experience behind her and an active role with WGE’s RAP Committee, Vivienne extended a mentoring invitation to CAPS’ management team, including the school’s Science Coordinator, Allan Alipio.

“It was Uriah’s achievement which first drew my attention to CAPS and I thought what a great opportunity to help support a student who so clearly had an interest in STEM, but wouldn’t have the same access to resources as those closer to the city,” Vivienne said.

“The fact that the school has a strong STEM reputation and there’s many more students, along with Uriah, who are doing great things was a bonus.”

Vivienne made the trip north to CAPS with colleague (and former TDP mentee) Jayden Catto late in 2018 to deliver a day of activities and mentoring to students in Years 7-12.

“Many of the activities were team-based; the most popular was to construct the highest tower out of spaghetti and marshmallows,” Vivienne recalled.

“We told them they could eat as many as they wanted, but to think of the impact on the end-height of their tower. The kids were very competitive because very few were eaten!”

“Watching them work together was awesome – you could tell they really looked out for each other and became more animated.”

The initial presentations run by WGE focused on pathways into engineering, including the different disciplines available and what engineers actually do in the real world.

“We also focused on alternative pathways into the profession and pointed out that many of our hydraulic engineers have a background in plumbing. I lived in the Goldfields for a short while so I’m aware that sometimes the resources are just not available in rural schools to make that straight-forward leap directly to tertiary education.”

As a result, Vivienne said they provided some one-on-one mentoring to a couple of students who were keen to pursue their studies in engineering.

“With the lack of a formal qualification in Technical Education classes, it means rural students may have to take a bridging course to qualify for university, so there are ways to get where you want – it’s not the end of the road,” Vivienne said.

“It’s really important that students – either urban or rural – understand there are alternative pathways. Once someone has that spark of excitement you need to show them how to run with it as far as they can.”

It makes CAPS’ STEM achievements all the more remarkable.

Established in 1981 by Aboriginal parents seeking higher standards of education for their children, students come from a vast area covering Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, the Kimberley and Northern Territory, with most students boarding.

“Those kids were fabulous, very attentive with lovely behaviour and working really well together,” Vivenne said.

“A lot of credit has to go to the parents and staff, as well as Mr Alipio’s creativity, dedication and enthusiasm, showing them how STEM relates to the real world.

“Hopefully our day at CAPS Coolgardie helped fan the flames and we look forward to building on our relationship with the school on an ongoing basis.”

“Our doors at WGE are always open to assist in mentoring – whether that be with presentations or leading activity-based learning, or students who need one-on-one help while they are studying. We are ready to help the future of our industry in whatever small way we can.”

For more information on WGE’s Graduate program, please visit our Careers page. If you’re interested in finding out more about WGE’s mentoring opportunities, send us an email at communications@wge.com.au.

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