More than 100 students made their way to the EPIC Careers Hub at the Central Districts Field Days in Feilding on 14 to 16 March to explore careers in civil construction, experience full-immersion digital simulators, and try their hand at operating a five-tonne excavator.

The hands-on careers event also caught the eye of Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and senior politician Shane Jones, who both came along to meet students and test out their excavator skills with various unique challenges.

Shane and the students tried to use an excavator to drop a golf ball in a cup with precision, while Christopher succeeded in using an excavator to drop giant game pieces into a larger-than-life Connect Four-style frame at New Zealand’s national excavator operator competition running alongside the careers hub.

Palmerston North Girls’ High School student Chloe Elston says the event gave her a solid understanding of what a career in civil construction involved and how she could go about joining the industry.

“I’m really interested in the idea of working in the civil industry as I love using my creative skills and like the sound of every day at work being different as well as the challenge of working my way up to large-scale projects.

“One of the people we got to talk to was a guy who didn’t enjoy school and wanted to try something different, so he got into civil construction. Later he became a project manager and now gets to work with high-up companies and be his own boss.”

Chloe says she now wants to participate in the Girls with Hi-Vis® programme – an initiative launched by Connexis that offers female students the opportunity to learn about careers in the infrastructure industries and gain hands-on experience

Palmerston North Girls’ High School Pathways Head of Department Donna Manley says the event inspired all eight of the students she brought along, helping them to realise the opportunities in civil construction to “earn while they learn” after finishing school.

“It highlighted to these students the need for more females in this industry and how they could gain qualifications such as diplomas and degrees while being supported by their employers in full-time employment.

“We would like to thank all those involved who hosted this for our students to learn more about the roles of infrastructure in our community.”

Over the course of Central Districts Field Days the EPIC Careers Hub welcomed groups from nine schools, as well as walk-up members of the public.

CCNZ Workforce Development Manager Rebecca Fox says the hub introduced a range of career options in the industry to school students in Year 11-13 and enhanced careers advisors’ understanding of the civil construction industry.

“We want to grow interest now so young people are thinking about a career in the industry and have a clear idea of the range of opportunities available to them.”

Students attending the hub got the chance to enjoy a truck-mounted excavator simulator operated by Major Oak Safety Training, ‘Have a Go’ excavator experience on a real excavator and a Connexis digital simulator. They also had the opportunity to walk through a large-scale careers map that illustrated the opportunities on offer to them, if they were to take up the tools of the civil infrastructure construction trades.

Floor talks from the team supporting the event featured project managers, civil engineers, administrators and health and safety advisors, showcasing the full spectrum of opportunities available in the sector.

EPIC careers hubs have been operating since 2018, with hundreds of students and career seekers connecting with information and experiences. Rebecca says EPIC plans to run three more careers hubs this year; in Porirua and Nelson during May, and another in November at Civil Contractors New Zealand’s annual conference in Invercargill.

Video: Prime Minister Christopher Luxon attempts a Connect Four-style challenge in an excavator