Rocket Lab launches New Zealand's first aerospace apprenticeship

Rocket Lab has launched plenty of satellites in its 14-year history, but today it launched something quite different - New Zealand's first aerospace apprenticeship.

On Thursday, the space company announced its Aerospace Apprenticeship programme, which will allow Kiwis to earn a trade qualification in Aeronautical Engineering.

Apprentices who take on the programme will get to work on the company's Electron launch vehicle, test and qualify other space hardware and learn specialist trade skills that'll equip them for a career in the ever-growing space industry.

Rocket Lab drove the creation of new unit standards for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) this year, enabling apprentices and specialised technicians working in the space sector to earn official qualifications for the first time.

"A qualification like this didn't exist in New Zealand, so we created one," explained Director of Production Jamie France.

"[We] worked with Service IQ, our partners and specialists in aviation industry training, to develop the unit standards to enable New Zealand's incredibly talented, world-leading space hardware technicians to have their experience formally recognised.

"As we weather the impacts of COVID-19... it's important to us that we play a part in developing careers and fostering talent that supports New Zealand's growing space economy."

The apprenticeship programme is available to the aviation industry and currently working towards an Aeronautical Engineering certificate, or to those looking to retrospectively cross-qualify their years of industry experience to the space sector.

"Applicants to the Rocket Lab Aerospace Apprenticeship programme require a Level 3 New Zealand Certificate in Aeronautical Engineering or equivalent industry experience to be considered," a statement from the company reads.

Rocket Lab says it's considering expanding the apprenticeship by opening it up to high school leavers by next year, dependent on demand.

Earlier this month, Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck launched a full investigation into why a rocket was lost during the company's latest mission.

It had planned to deploy seven satellites from the Mahia Peninsula on July 5. All seemed to be going to plan, but the company confirmed shortly after that the vehicle had been lost during the second-stage burn.