Student Outreach Overview

December 2017


Earlier this year we announced the launch of our Student Outreach Programme. We’re pleased to report that at the end of 2017 our Student membership has risen from 24 to 40 student members – nearly double! Student Coordinator, Katie Haggath, reports on what we did and what we're planning.

Earlier this year we announced the launch of our Student Outreach Programme. Student membership of TechCommNZ has typically been less than 1% of TechCommNZ members, and we all agree that number should be higher. In late 2016 we opened up student membership to students of any institution, studying any degree. We all know well that technical communicators come from all walks of life, and work across a wide range of industries, so our student members should too!

When asked, approximately 35 out of 40 students at Victoria University had no idea what technical communication was, or that it was a career option for them. So, the first goal of the Student Outreach Programme was to get it out there. This is a great career opportunity, a well-paid, interesting field, and it needs skilled people.

We’re delighted that our efforts are actually making a difference. After presenting to more than 600 students in 4 cities our student membership has nearly doubled!

Highlights of our outreach programme this year include…

Victoria University Career Day

Katie Haggath

In May, Katie Haggath travelled to Wellington to represent TechCommNZ at Victoria University’s ICT Career Fair. Katie was offering free membership trials to students, that they might see what TechCommNZ can offer them.

“Though many students didn’t know what technical communication was, let alone that it was a career option for them, I was delighted to find that there was a great deal of interest once I explained to them what we do day to day, and what a well-paid, wide-ranging, and opportunity-rich field tech comm really is,” said Katie.

As the then freshly appointed Student Outreach Coordinator, this was also an excellent opportunity to confirm with students what they were really looking for – not only support, but opportunities. Katie intends to make the most of what she learned in planning the next year of student outreach.

Auckland University of Technology Career Day

Abhay Chokshi and Andrew Eccles

Abhay Chokshi and Andrew Eccles represented TechCommNZ at AUT's ICT and Engineering Careers Fair in July, where they reported an encouragingly high level of interest and enthusiasm for technical communication amongst the college students.

"AUT Career Day was an amazing experience for us as working technical communicators. As ICT is an industry that provides majority technical communication jobs, it was interesting to explain ICT students about tech comm. There was genuine interest among students to know more about this rewarding career stream and how TechCommNZ can provide the necessary grooming required to step into the role. As many as 15 students joined the promotional (free) student membership on the day and have continued their engagement since." – Abhay Chokshi

Hamilton branch presentation at Waikato University

Following expressions of interest, rock-star writer Shelly Davies and Tyson Bennett held a Hamilton event in June for Waikato University Linguistics majors. Together they presented two different but no less exciting views of what it's like to be a technical writer.

Tyson took the students through "a day in the life of a tech writer". He discussed how to go about writing using examples from his typical workday, different media we use to communicate, and even brought in a bit of pop culture by highlighting the tech comm virtues of Pokemon Go!

"In Pokemon Go, you have to go through a series of tips for gameplay before you even create your profile. This means that when you play, you have a better game experience. Similarly, at Gallagher my focus as a tech writer is ensuring that our customers have a good experience from the very first time they use our products." – Tyson Bennett

Put like that, it's easy to see why good technical communication is so important!

Shelly Davies

Shelly presented a different view, showcasing her website and discussing her business and training workshops to show students just what you can do with a career in writing. It's not what you think, and it doesn't have to be dull! In fact, good writing is a rock star skill.

"There were lots of follow-up conversations. The students never knew this was an option for them. They were really grateful to have another option put out there, and excited by our two different perspectives because it really showed the range of opportunities in tech comm." – Shelly Davies

We're delighted to know that both Tyson and Shelly have been invited to present again at Waikato University in the future.

Christchurch branch presentations from Ara Institute and the University of Canterbury

In October the Christchurch branch welcomed representatives of Ara Institute of Canterbury, and of the University of Canterbury, to discuss three new post-graduate qualifications on offer from February 2018.

Ara Institute will now be offering both Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma qualifications in Information Design. The GCID comprises four foundational courses. Note that the same four courses make up the first year of the Graduate Diploma, which means that you can enrol in the Diploma and take the Certificate as an early-exit option, or you can complete the Certificate and decide to continue studying for the Diploma.

Jordon Jones

Philip Armstrong announced that the University of Canterbury will be offering applied Master’s degrees, aimed at prepping university leavers for a career in their chosen field, from February 2018. The Master of Writing is for students with an interest in professional, academic, creative and technical writing, and will allow students to specialise and deepen their expertise.

"It was a really good opportunity to learn about courses offered to us for sharpening and expanding our skillsets as technical writers. It was really encouraging to see these courses offered to both aspiring technical writers and those with experience looking for an edge." – Jordon Jones

Wellington branch presentation at Victoria University

Jane Armstrong

Most recently, our Wellington branch coordinator Jane Armstrong ran a "Writing for the web" workshop for the students of Communication Design at Victoria University. Students had a mixed range of knowledge and experiences – their course covers general theory and history (semiotics, mediums & technology), graphic design (aesthetics and process/software), and industry collaboration (a public service project). Some students had web experience already but most had limited experience of writing for the web.

Jane's "Writing for the web" workshop covered:

  • Tips & strategies
  • A practical exercise putting the tips and strategies into practice
  • About TechCommNZ – who we are, what we do, and benefits for them.

"The students fed back that workshop really widened their scope of understanding," said Jane. She also received feedback that they were interested in the job section of our website most of all. We are excited about the opportunities that will open in this space once our member directory plans come fully to fruition.

What are we planning?

Not many people know that professional development counts as experience. As a graduate with little industry experience, this is invaluable. Demonstrated dedication to your chosen career, along with the skills you will pick up, will bolster your CV and set you apart from the crowd. To help our student members get ahead, from February next year student members will be given a letter of reference from the President of TechCommNZ, if they attend any six branch events in a year. Branch events are free to student members and members can attend in any branch around the country.

We want to continue working with universities to get our members in there presenting to students – Shelly, Tyson and Jane have really set the bar high here and we're excited to it continue next year.

We also want to host student-focused events throughout the year on subjects such as networking and how to make the most of it, and how to discuss your professional development experience on a CV.

One of the biggest things students are looking for is work experience – next year, we’ll be looking to facilitate paid and voluntary internship opportunities, shadowing opportunities, or “work for a day” events through TechCommNZ and interested members, both individual and corporate.

Once again, we’ll be attending career day events at universities in Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington.