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Up Education

From NZMA graduate to Rocket Lab’s first Pacific female apprentice

30 Oct 2023

Kayla Mataora, NZMA graduate, garnered attention on ‘TVNZ Seven Sharp’ as one of the many inspiring Pacific women making strides in the sector of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

She represents a growing number of school leavers joining Rocket Lab, a leader in New Zealand’s expanding space industry with over 700 employees.

At the young age of 18 and without any prior formal employment, Kayla embarked on her journey in 2022 with a keen interest in exploring careers in STEM.

Opting for the Level 2 Certificate in Foundation Skills – Trades at the NZMA Trades campus in West Auckland, Kayla aimed to shatter barriers and carve her path in a predominantly male-dominated field, with low representation of Pacific people.

Departing from conventional notions of trades training, she viewed NZMA Trades as her gateway to mastering STEM fundamentals. The hands-on teaching approach enabled her to cultivate valuable skills in trades craftsmanship, from plumbing to gasfitting and carpentry.

“This is how the trades course at NZMA allowed me to hit the ground running during my Rocket Lab apprenticeship,” shares Kayla.

Kayla’s journey took a significant turn after accompanying a friend to a NZMA Trades open day, where she was given a tour of Rocket Lab in Mount Wellington, Auckland, and was encouraged to apply for an apprenticeship.

“We hired her for her work ethic, diligence, and curiosity,” shares Jamie France, Director of Production at Rocket Lab.

Reflecting on her achievements, Kayla takes immense pride in her role as Rocket Lab’s pioneering female Pacific apprentice, serving as a beacon of inspiration for other Pacific women aspiring to enter STEM careers.

In support of a diverse technology workforce, Kayla has benefited from Rocket Lab’s offering of unique workplace experience opportunities for aspiring women in tech and their aim to encourage more Pacific applicants, alongside other underrepresented groups. Their internships and apprenticeships have been providing school leavers with real-world experience and the chance to contribute to actual programs within the space industry.

To her fellow Pacific people with similar aspirations, Kayla offers words of encouragement: “My advice would be to try not to put yourself down and take initiative. You are just as important as everyone else, and stepping out of your comfort zone and pursuing your career aspirations will lead to great things in the end.”

Looking forward, Kayla sets her sights on advancing within Rocket Lab, aspiring to become a senior technician.

Watch the TVNZ Seven Sharp segment