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Jobs of the future to stem from new aerospace and renewable energy degrees

Australia’s future aerospace and renewable energy engineers are set to emerge from the Hunter following the launch of two brand new degrees at the University of Newcastle (UON).

The Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering (Honours) and Bachelor of Renewable Energy Engineering (Honours) are new programs designed to create highly specialised professionals for the jobs of the future, which will help meet the needs of industry and address real-world problems.

Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering (Honours)
Pro vice-chancellor, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, Professor Brett Ninness, said the aerospace degree had been developed with input from key industry partners and graduate employers, including senior leaders and engineers from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Boeing Australia, BAE Systems Australia and Regional Development Australia.

“The new Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering (Honours), which has been created in consultation with the aerospace industries surrounding RAAF Base Williamtown, has been tailored to help fill a real demand for locally-produced aerospace engineers,” Ninness said.

As RAAF Base Williamtown will be one of the ‘home bases’ for Australia’s F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, aerospace engineering companies including BAE Systems Australia and Lockheed Martin Australia have located part of their operations in the precinct surrounding Williamtown and Newcastle International Airport. They will join the existing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet aircraft at Williamtown, supported by Boeing Australia conducting deeper-level maintenance.

“Our aerospace program will be taught with an embedded ‘practical’ or ‘hands-on’ component, allowing our students to create valuable links between the engineering sciences and ‘real world’ applications,”  Ninness said.

Boeing Australia has played an integral role in developing the University of Newcastle’s new Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering (Honours).

“With the broadest portfolio in Australian aerospace, Boeing is proud to have contributed our industry knowledge to help the University of Newcastle develop an aerospace engineering degree that will give students the skills they need to succeed in what is a growing industry for the Hunter region,” Boeing Australia university relations and STEM senior manager Sandra James said.

Graduates of the UON aerospace program will be highly qualified for positions within aircraft design and manufacturing companies, Australian and international airlines, airworthiness organisations and the Australian Defence Force as aerospace, satellite and systems engineers.

Department of Defence air vehicle sustainment manager, squadron leader Nathan Draper, said an aerospace degree was a ticket to operate across the world.

“Aerospace people talk the same airworthiness language, meaning our skills are highly transportable. In setting up our partner environment for F-35 operations in Arizona, my Italian and Norwegian engineering team mates all spoke the one common language, that of technical airworthiness and aviation management,” said Draper.

Draper said he had found an aeronautical engineering degree to be globally-relevant and provided an excellent stepping stone to operate in complex systems of systems thinking.

“This systems engineering approach has enabled me to implement solutions to resolve difficult problems, that draw upon many disciplines, including regulatory, logistics, engineering and information systems integration.”

BAE Systems, which has been maintaining and upgrading aircraft for the RAAF at Williamtown for almost 20 years welcomes the University’s commitment to providing an aerospace engineering degree.

BAE Systems F-35 campaign manager Andrew Chapman said the US Government assigned BAE Systems Australia (Williamtown) the regional F-35 airframe depot maintenance responsibility for the South Pacific region in early 2015.

“We have an ongoing requirement for aerospace engineers and tradespeople beyond 2070 to provide technical and logistic support services to aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.  As such, we welcome and support the introduction of an aerospace engineering degree at the University of Newcastle.”

Ninness said the demand for aerospace engineers would likely increase now that the federal government had established the Australian Space Agency.

“This national initiative, which is aiming to tap into the $420 billion spent worldwide annually in aeronautical and aerospace industries, will also act as a drawcard to young high-achieving engineering-oriented people to undertake a career in this engineering specialisation,” Ninness said.

What is aerospace engineering?

Aerospace engineering is about understanding and controlling the response of aerospace structures to complex interactions using a broad range of technologies.

Aerospace engineering involves a systems approach to the design, efficient operation and modification of high-tech devices for the aeronautical and defence industries. A key challenge for the development of aerospace systems is the need to be as light-weight as possible, yet highly reliable.

Bachelor of Renewable Energy Engineering (Honours)
With more than 28,000 new jobs expected to be created in the renewable energy sector by 2030, the University of Newcastle’s new Bachelor of Renewable Energy Engineering (Honours) will work to create highly specialised engineers to meet the industry’s needs.

As one of only two NSW universities to offer a renewable energy engineering bachelor program, Ninness said the University would help address the need for highly qualified engineers within industry and government.

“A significant number of highly qualified engineers with specialties in renewable energy are required worldwide in order to meet the global commitments to tackle climate change. That, in addition to community concerns on energy security and affordability, has driven government and organisations to seek highly trained engineers with expertise in the multidisciplinary field of renewable energy to evaluate, design, operate and optimise renewable energy systems for power generation.”

Ninness said unlike other programs in Australia, UON’s renewable energy engineering program would draw from chemical, electrical and mechanical engineering disciplines to empower graduates with a truly multi-disciplinary skill set.

“This unique combination will allow the graduates to seek and secure jobs not only in the immediate field of renewable energy but also in traditional engineering fields, providing students with the broadest, yet deepest appreciation of renewable energy technologies.

“The breadth of skills and knowledge graduates will develop will also position them to lead the development and implementation of emerging and as yet un-developed renewable energy technologies,” he said.

Ninness said the program was based on the principle of ‘research led teaching’ and would use the services of Newcastle Institute of Energy and Resources (NIER) lead researchers to infuse the course materials with the latest findings in the field.

“The same researchers will mentor students in the final year capstone research and design projects.”

Graduates of this program will be qualified for roles focusing on the technical and economic feasibility and design of renewable energy systems, plant operation and optimisation of installed renewable energy systems, as well as positions involving energy management, energy auditing, energy economics, energy policy development, carbon accounting, research, entrepreneurship and innovation.

What is renewable energy engineering?
Spanning the disciplines of chemical, electrical and mechanical engineering, this degree will equip graduates to work across the spectrum of technologies for renewable energy capture, conversion, storage, delivery and management. Students can also choose courses in related areas of climate change policy, law and economics and environmental sciences.

One of the biggest challenges humankind faces is the transition to a renewable energy economy. The success of this evolution depends on the creative solutions of a new generation of renewable energy engineers with specialised skills.​

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