Promoting the local option


Western Institute of Technology in Taranaki's (WITT) Secondary-Tertiary Pathways Project (STPP) programme aims to engage students with engineering, prepare them for tertiary study and promote the advantages of studying the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE) programme locally.

The programme includes a new three-term Year 13 course delivered at WITT, a series of ‘taster’ events and presentations about engineering.

The first group

16 Year 13 students have a weekly three-hour lesson at WITT, where they have access to the institute’s workrooms. The group is mostly comprised of boys from Francis Douglas Memorial College, New Plymouth Boys’ High School and Spotswood College

One girl, from Sacred Heart College, heard about the programme and asked to join. The STPP team hopes to get more girls involved in 2018, and is working on building up relationships with schools through other events running this year.

Distance is always an issue with this type of initiative, and was a factor in two additional students from Hawera High School deciding to pull out of the course in Term 1.

Engineering Fundamentals course

Students will complete the Engineering Fundamentals course from the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE) programme. This gives them 15 credits towards the NZDE (and the Level 4 Certificate in Engineering, designed as a pathway to the diploma).

They can also achieve 8 NCEA credits:

  • Achievement Standard 91624 – Structural Systems
  • Achievement Standard 91625 – Complex Machines
  • Unit Standard 15856 – Electrical Supply Systems

All students were assessed for literacy and numeracy in the first term, to ensure that anyone with problems would receive support to enable them to successfully complete the course.

Tutor Yusuf Khan mixes theoretical learning with practical activities and industry visits. The team purchased new equipment – National Instruments- NI Lab View for vibration and heat transfer simulation software – to give students experience working with new technologies and excite them about engineering as a career. “They have really enjoyed using these tools to carry out experiments and analysis,” Yusuf says.

The students watched second-year NZDE students load testing their model bridges and, in addition to hearing comments about how each bridge performed, gained another lesson:  that failure is an important part of the learning experience in engineering, and is discussed within a supportive group of tutors and students.

Introducing staircasing

Many in the group had decided to study towards a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (BE (Hons)) degree before enrolling in the course. Yusuf discusses the advantages of the NZDE as a qualification – one with its own merits and as a starting point for those intending to staircase to a Bachelor of Engineering Technology or BE (Hons).

The students had assumed they would have to head to bigger cities to study engineering, so have been interested to find out they can: stay at home, save on study costs, take advantage of local opportunities such as cadetships, and then go on to obtain a higher qualification.

Engaging with teachers

The STPP team collaborated with school careers advisors last year to develop the programme, and is working on making closer links with other teachers.  Finding that only one Maths teacher visited in response to an invitation to trial the new equipment, they are looking at other ways to reach teachers. Kyle Hall, Programme Manager Engineering & Trades, says they might take the equipment to each school for an hour, “so that teachers can see what’s available and explain to next year’s students what they’ll use on the course.”

Kyle gave a presentation about the programme at the Careers Advisors and Teachers Association regional conference in May. The audience response was very positive, he says. “Their eyes lit up – the fact that students would actually be doing a diploma paper was what sold them.”

Kyle also talked to 350 Year 9-10 Māori students about engineering and the NZDE at the recent Waiora Putaiao Health Expo 2017 in New Plymouth.

Year 11-12 taster experiences

The team is targeting Year 11-12 students in Term 3 – all local schools will be invited to bring students to taster engineering experiences. These include CAD (computer-aided design) draughting and CNC (computer numerical control) work on automated machining centres, and applying manual finishing techniques on a tangible project the students can take home with them.

Each student will receive an Engineering e2e information sheet about engineering, alternative pathways and the Year 13 course. “They like brochures,” says Kyle, “we get asked for something they can take home to parents.”

Year 10 events

Events for Year 10 students will run in Term 4. They will hear presentations about engineering – with Futureintech Ambassadors or other guest speakers talking about their pathways and roles.

Industry visits are always a hit with students, but to be successful for all involved require limited numbers. The team is investigating the possibility of running field trips local engineering firms for groups of up to 10 students.

Careers NZ website

Our thanks to Kyle and Yusuf for their time and advice; if you have any queries please contact

July 2017