Alternative pathway to Clinical Engineering


Following last year’s case study about a proposed new qualification – a New Zealand Diploma in Engineering in Clinical Engineering – this month we look at an alternative pathway via existing programmes.

Collaboration is key

The strength of both approaches is the collaboration between industry and education. If employers discuss their specific needs with local tertiary providers, it can be the start to delivering a more relevant engineering diploma or degree course. Our case study last November described the Counties Manukau Health/Manukau Institute of Technology initiative and the input from the wider public and private sectors in developing the proposed clinical engineering qualification.  This qualification is still under development.
Read the case study: Industry-provider collaboration: NZ Diploma of Engineering in Clinical Engineering

The unified diploma pathway

There is another pathway for engineers to gain skills and experience in clinical engineering – through what’s known as the Unified Diploma. This refers to a combination of two existing qualifications: the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE) and the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering Practice (NZDEP).

The NZDE provides two years of basic, academic education. Many of the students studying towards this qualification have come directly from school so have no practical experience. Having gained the NZDE, how do they put that knowledge into practice?

That is where the NZDEP comes in. It provides a more practical aspect, with students putting the knowledge they gained from their NZDE into practice through work experience. They are also gaining a better understanding of that knowledge in the context of their particular industry or company.

You can complete a NZDE at many polytechnics and institutes of technology. The NZDEP is a work-based qualification assessed on the job through an Industry Training Organisation.

Assessing individual needs

Lindsay Crossen, Chairperson – New Zealand Board of Engineering Diplomas, is enthusiastic about the advantages of the unified diploma pathway. He says it provides the opportunity for employers to assess the technical skills and capabilities of their staff, from Level 6 upwards. “They can decide exactly what experience-enhanced skills they want those employees to have, rather than just looking at what the existing qualifications can offer. It’s good for industry to think about what they want in terms of academic knowledge and the practical skills which complement it.

“Employers need to have a good input into qualifications and not just leave it to the academics. We would love to see more examples of people in industry approaching ITO (Industry Training organisation) providers to state what they want for their staff.”

Scope for a variety of skills

Lindsay notes that employers can use the NZDEP to extend their staff, whether around planning, costing, health and safety or site-specific skills. “It can be part of someone’s first or second year in the job. It’s also a useful way of giving immigrants the guided relevant experience they need for working in New Zealand. Hospitals employ a lot of people who have gained a NZDE-equivalent qualification overseas – working through the NZDEP they could upgrade or synchronise their qualification to the New Zealand working environment, ensuring they have the capability to work in a clinical engineering role. NZDEP is flexible and can be tailored to align with most industries’ needs.”

Anybody interested in finding out more about the NZDE or NZDEP should email or phone 04 474 8984.

Thanks to Lindsay for his time and advice. If you would like to know more about any of our case studies, you can contact us on

April 2015