School to Skies is the product of a bold move in 2017 to help raise our representation figures for women in the Air Force, as well as encourage diversity. The NZDF is committed to increasing female representation across the three services to 25% by 2025. School to Skies is now in its third year and is one of many initiatives in place to reach this target.
A combination of aviation STEM, leadership and personal development, the week-long camp on one of our three operational bases gives forty Year 13 women the chance to break down social barriers and gain exposure to a variety of Air Force careers. This includes both technical and aviation trades – they get to fix real aircraft, fly a simulator, plan a flight mission, build electrical component and learn more about engineering fundamentals.
In addition to these tactile skills, the forty young women will take part in a variety of workshops and leadership exercises that will teach them more about themselves, how to manage pressures that life can at times deliver, foster teamwork and set them up with valuable tools to use as they transition from school into a career.
Participants also have the unique opportunity to speak face to face with incredible role models who are employed in technical and aviation roles and have all of their questions and concerns answered. Giving these young women role models for them to look up to and aspire to become has proven to be an essential component of School to Skies camp. Many participants may not have previously considered the RNZAF as a potential career choice, and this programme aims to broaden the preconceived ideas young women may have about a military career.
Through experiential learning and real-world applicability, the program is a modern approach, contextualising school curriculum for future careers and to address the ever increasing skill gap of women choosing STEM careers. Graduates leave empowered, engaged and excited at a time where career prospects can be overwhelming. It is hoped that the School to Skies programme will encourage more females into technical and aviation trades, such as Pilots, Engineers, Aircraft Technicians, Air Warfare Officers, Avionics Technicians and Communication System Technicians.
The programme has now grown to include School to Skies: On The Road, delivering content to Year 7 – 9 students, targeting formative periods and starting a continuum of positive STEM engagement.
The School to Skies camp is open to all young women in school year 13 who are taking Level 3 NCEA (or equivalent) maths, english and science subjects and runs during the Term 1 school holidays each year. Visit www.schooltoskies.co.nz for more information.