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Shenay Launches her Career at Rocket Lab

You’ve heard the saying, ‘It’s not rocket science’, but nineteen-year-old Shenay Fraser’s career comes pretty close!

Two years into a three-and-a-half-year composites apprenticeship through the Marine and Specialised Technologies Academy of New Zealand (MAST Academy), Shenay builds rockets at Rocket Lab in south Auckland.

“In short, composites is laminating, trimming, drilling, sanding and fitting pieces of carbon fibre and fibreglass to build a product,” explains Shenay.

“Carbon fibre is a part of many diverse industries, from space to the racetrack, sailing the oceans [think: the America’s Cup boats], and on farms. It can take you anywhere in the world to build anything!”

Another way of thinking of composites is it’s any material made of two or more distinct materials. “The composites industry is based around combining a large range of resins with a large range of reinforcement materials to make an even larger range of new products,” explains MAST Academy on its website.

Shenay left Waiuku College two months before her final Year 13 exams when she was offered an apprenticeship at Rocket Lab – a company she had proactively researched and contacted while looking for work experience opportunities.

She describes Rocket Lab as a fast-paced and ever developing environment where she can learn new skills and master others.

“I enjoy working alongside a team of likeminded people, having the opportunity to watch launches live from Mission Control and appreciating the hard work we’ve collectively put into it.”

She admits finding some aspects of the job challenging, such as heavy lifting, but that “just means I’ve got to find a solution to make those situations work better for me”.

Many of the subjects Shenay took at school have proved useful in her work. “Physics and mathematics for important and precise calculations, graphics for the skill of reading technical drawings, and hard materials classes for learning how to use basic tools and machinery.”

MAST Academy runs a ‘Launch it, School to Work’ programme to introduce high school students to working with composites. The programme is an opportunity for students to experience work in an area they’re keen to investigate. Shenay’s advice to high school students is “get out there and give things a go”. “Try work experience and have a part time job. This experience will help these build your CV, knowledge and cultivate pathways!”

Students are employed on a part-time basis, usually spending 1-2 days per week at work and 3-4 days at school. Find out more -

Article courtesy of Leaving School magazine


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