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19 July 2022

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Flight to success

Friday 17 June 2022 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Education, National

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Flight to success
Year 12 Tereora College student Te Mata Patai loves to travel, she is pictured with Air New Zealand staff Nick Shalder (Rarotonga’s Air New Zealand station manager) and Lindsay Graham. Photo: Melina Etches/22061619

Air New Zealand staff Lindsay Graham, John Strickland and Iain Howard, who live in New Zealand, flew in specially for the 2022 Careers Expo Day held yesterday, to inspire young Cook Islanders wanting to pursue a career in aviation.

All three were raised and educated in Rarotonga and attended Tereora College. They were happy to return home to encourage and inspire students and help guide them in their future career paths.

Students were excited to discover Graham, Strickland and Howard are from Rarotonga and former students of Tereora.

Graham, who is an Air Bus flight attendant, said: “I’ve seen a lot more kids showing an interest in our Air New Zealand booth, and having an idea of what they want to do when they leave school.”

“I’ve seen my former teachers and students who I used to babysit as kids at this Expo.

“I’m working for an airline that flies (all) over the world. I love meeting people and a highlight of my job is running into locals on the flight.”

Strickland will qualify as a licenced aircraft maintenance engineer in 2023. He dropped out of college and started working at Rarotonga’s Air New Zealand as a loader, climbing up the ranks to soon his dream role.

Strickland said he was inspired by his “old man who was a mechanic”.

He then applied for an apprenticeship with Air NZ and was successful. In 2018 he was given the opportunity to go to New Zealand. He completed 36 weeks at the Air New Zealand Academy of Learning which provides hands on experience and all the basics of aviation.

“I took the long way around, I left school early… but out of determination I’m doing what I do and I enjoy it,” said Strickland.

“I’ve come through the unconventional way, I want the students to know not to give up, it’s not impossible.”

His advice to the students is, “what I was told when I applied was attitude, what they are looking for is attitude, they can teach you things, but your attitude they can’t change”.

Strickland also noted the good support and mentorship he received from the station engineers.

Nick Shalders, Rarotonga Air New Zealand’s station engineer, looks after the maintenance and checking of the planes before they depart the airstrip.

This is Shalders second year at Careers Expo. He was pleased to say “we got some special help (Graham, Strickland and Iain Howard) this year, it’s awesome having these guys come up and it has been going really well, the students can actually see what they do”.

Team leader of Air New Zealand in Rarotonga, Stevenson Safotu said they also visit the schools and talk to the students about the “behind the scenes at the airport”.

Students are also offered a day to be guided and shown all the working aspects of the airline and over 400 kids have experienced the tour.

“They spend the day with us from customer service, refueling, engineering… and we can give the option of work experience after school on weekends, or school holidays and some want to go further,” said Safotu.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic several students were hired as casuals and over the past few years some have gone on to engineering school.

“We have a great programme, we are opening the door for them and creating opportunities,” Safotu said.