Melissa Sets Sights on Mechanical Engineering

posted: 12:00 am - 16th June 2016

Melissa Kupa Melissa Kupa has her sights set firmly on becoming a mechanical engineer, thanks to a Toloa scholarship from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples. 

Melissa, who is Tokelauan, decided to study engineering because she wants to be involved in the design, manufacturing and maintenance of mechanical systems, with her long term goal being to join the New Zealand Navy: “To be able to work on boats and travel the world sounded challenging and exciting.”

Melissa will receive financial support throughout her degree studies at Wellington’s WelTec through the scholarship.  “I want to be a role model for Pasifika girls and to let them and their families know that engineering is a great profession with lots of opportunities,” says Melissa. 

The Ministry's Toloa scholarships aim to encourage young Pacific people to study in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). Chief Executive of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, Pauline Winter, says “With the government’s new investment in STEM through the Toloa scholarships  ($1.2m over four years) we see many more opportunities for our Pacific young people  to participate in STEM subjects and benefit from the opportunities those subjects present.

"Melissa will be a trailblazer.  According to the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) women make up only 13% of engineers in New Zealand and 7% of Chartered Professional Engineers.   This is despite first-rate job opportunities and earnings potential." 

IPENZ Chief Executive Susan Freeman-Greene notes that engineering is an area of recognised skills shortage in New Zealand, “Growing our engineering capability is a key part of the government’s strategy to transform New Zealand into a high tech, innovation-led economy.  We want to really encourage young people to study engineering as there are excellent opportunities in New Zealand and overseas. 

Sunethra Pitawala, tutor of mechanical engineering at the Wellington Institute of Technology, herself an Honours graduate in production engineering, sees young women who study engineering doing particularly well in their careers: “Female engineers achieve to a very high standard with many going on to lead companies, becoming directors and working at very high levels.  If you're a creative thinker, engineering could be an excellent career choice for you.”