"You can't be what you can't see" BAE Systems director Andrew Chapman believes, which is why he is so passionate about opening the doors to the aero and defence industry to students of the Hunter.
Last Friday about 200 students from Port Stephens, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Hunter Valley high schools that have shown an interested in aero or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects poured into BAE's hangar at Williamtown to see the real world applications of their studies and the jobs that were available to them.
"BAE Systems has secured long-term work at Williamtown supporting Australia's national F-35 fleet. This means that students who have grown up and studied locally can now target a long-term aerospace career in the region," Mr Chapman, BAE's director of aircraft sustainment and training, said.
"By inspiring students to consider a career in the defence industry, we're building a future workforce that will provide the men and women that serve our country with the best possible capability.
"We've partnered with RDA Hunter, the state government and schools to work on creating a capability pipeline to create this future workforce. Having the students here helps them to see what they can be doing once they leave school."
The visit to BAE was part of RDA Hunter's Aerospace Careers Days, staged in Williamtown on June 27-28, that aims to inspire students into jobs emerging in the Hunter due to the expansion of the Defence industry.
BAE Systems sustains 33 Hawk Lead-In fighter aircraft and will play an integral role in maintaining Australia's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet.
But to do this, Mr Chapman said BAE needs to employ more than 400 skilled workers to maintain the aircraft in the next 10 years.
Rick Evans from RDA Hunter said the Aerospace Careers Days were to help students see how their studies "relate to industry" and "see it in action".
"The Aerospace Careers Days are designed to help students understand that high-value, long-term job opportunities are available for them in the Hunter. Partner organisations remind students they don't need to leave the Hunter to 'get a good job'."
Hunter River High School students Connor Walker, 16, Matthew Hughes, 15, and Kane Bolton, 16, visited BAE on Friday.
The trio, who study aeroskills and engineering in school, said it was "interesting" to see what the company worked on.
"It's really cool and interesting to see what we can be doing in the future," Mr Hughes said.
Mr Walker added: "It's kind of like seeing our futures in front of us."