Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec) has launched a new way of delivering a degree qualification for engineers.
Its Bachelor of Engineering Technology degree apprenticeship will enable students to remain employed while working towards their degree (Level 7) qualification.
WelTec Construction and Engineering Head Neil McDonald said this is a first for New Zealand.
“It is no secret that New Zealand is facing a skills shortage of trained and work-ready engineers to facilitate the tsunami of infrastructure development the country so desperately needs,” he said.
He said that WelTec has directly responded to the needs of the industry for employees who are qualified, astute with skills and work-ready.
The Institution has collaborated with industry on the curriculum.
Partners who have endorsed this new degree are Beca, Downer, Higgins, WSP Opus, Wellington Water and Porirua City Council.
WelTec and Whitireia Community Polytechnic Chief Executive Chris Gosling said that the Institution will work alongside Otago Polytechnic with the industry to develop a cutting edge curriculum for an engineering occupation.
“We have no doubt that working closely with industry on getting this right will help develop the qualified and skilled workforce in New Zealand,” he said.
The new degree model is aimed at school leavers who are aspiring engineers wanting to work with infrastructure assets.
Students will be able to gain real life work experience on-site and work towards gaining a degree qualification while fully employed.
First in New Zealand
“While degree apprenticeships have gained increasing popularity in countries like Germany and the United Kingdom, this will be the first of its kind in New Zealand. We are hopeful that this new way of delivering degree-level education will transform the way in which vocationally oriented degrees are taught,” Mr Gosling said.
Darrell Statham, Manager, Transportation, City Infrastructure at Porirua City Council endorsed the new approach and has hired a young WelTec student, Megan Turner, who will be pursuing degree apprenticeship at WelTec.
“There is huge mutual benefit in this programme, which enables us to employ a student who is genuinely interested in the area of work and there is the potential to retain them at the end of it – which will mean a work-ready, skilled, and degree qualified employee. Students will benefit by remaining employed and avoiding running up huge debts, gaining valuable experience and by fast tracking their path to becoming a chartered engineer,” he said.
A student’s experience
Megan Turner, now employed at the Council to work on roading projects, found the structure of the programme more viable because she can continue to pay for expenses and accommodation, and yet still work toward a degree.
“It is great to know that I will still be paid. Also, nowadays most employers look at your CV and are searching for your work experience, that is a big focus, and doing this means I will have both the experience and the theory to show,” she said.
Megan has completed her Diploma in Civil Engineering, and is now keen to progress to a degree.
Degree apprenticeships combine working with part-time study.
Apprentices are employed throughout the programme, and spend part of their time at WelTec and the rest with their employer.
This can be on a day-to-day basis or in blocks of time, depending on the programme and requirements of the employer.
WelTec Principal Academic staff member and Project Lead James Mackay said that traditionally, apprenticeships cater to lower level qualifications that are more practical by nature, and where the industry values the ability to do the job above any theoretical knowledge.
“In this case, the student will learn to do the job of being an engineer and pick up the theoretical knowledge as they are doing this. After they have completed their apprenticeship, they would then gain a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Technology. As the name suggests, the apprenticeship relies on integrating the theoretical knowledge usually delivered in the classroom with hands on industrial experience,” he said.
Megan Turner at a worksite