Connecting three sectors to promote engineering pathways


NorthTec, with three partner schools, is developing a series of 'taster' engineering experiences, involving industry speakers, for Year 10 to 13 students. In 2018, Year 13 students will have the option of beginning a Level 6 tertiary qualification while still at school.

Working with schools

NorthTec, working in partnership with Kamo High School, Whangarei Girls’ High School and Whangarei Boys’ High School, was awarded Secondary-Tertiary Pathways Project funding to develop a programme to raise awareness of engineering careers and prepare students to study towards the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE). They also hope to boost under-represented groups such as Māori and women.

Mirko Wojnowski, Project Lead – Educational Strategy at NorthTec, notes that the programme has to be developed by secondary and tertiary sectors working together, with input from industry. “We’re trying to bridge that gap between secondary school and tertiary education.” NorthTec has built flexibility into the programme so that it can respond to individual school needs as they arise, and provide one-day-per week or block courses.

Two other schools in the region have expressed interest in the programme but are yet to confirm their participation.

‘Taster’ engineering experiences

The programme starts in 2017 with a variety of ‘taster’ engineering experiences for Year 10 to 13 students at NorthTec. They will work on practical, fun activities and hear from local engineers (including current and graduate NZDE students) about the huge variety of engineering career choices and opportunities. Some events will be targeted at a particular year level while others will be suitable for all.

“There’s so much misinformation about engineering, we’d like to paint a picture of engineering education and careers – especially opportunities in Northland – so that students can imagine themselves in that picture.”

Teaching maths and physics in an engineering context

NorthTec will support teachers to deliver maths and physics in an engineering context, with secondary and tertiary staff working together to develop contextualised learning and assessment models. “Some students really need that context rather than learning abstract maths or physics.”

If a school wants to boost student learning in Maths or Physics, NorthTec can support this by providing labs and links to specialised teaching staff and industry. The programme also opens up opportunities to assist schools by ‘topping up’ what they are teaching – if they can’t do all the experiments they’d like, for example, students in the programme could potentially do them at NorthTec or use an industry laboratory.”

Linking with industry

NorthTec is reaching out to local industry to play a big role in the programme. “We want the three sectors working together for the students.” Mirko says that industry speakers will play a valuable role in helping students realise the potential rewards in following an engineering pathway.

Engineers will initially be involved as guest speakers, with the programme extending later on to include industry mentors. NorthTec will also discuss possibilities such as cadetships with local employers. It currently offers the NZDE – Civil, but from mid-2017 will also offer the NZDE – Electrical.

Student subject choices

With taster events rolling out in February, it is hoped that students will be engaged with engineering by the time they choose option subjects later in the year. “We want to capture them by Year 10, so that they’re enthusiastic about the potential in an engineering career and equipped to make it through to higher-level maths and science.”

The Year 13 NZDE programme is still at the planning stage and how it is offered will depend on each school.

Studying locally is not limiting

In promoting the programme, NorthTec aims to highlight the advantages of studying locally. Mirko points out that it’s not limiting, that students can cross-credit to other programmes. “The NZDE is a great qualification in its own right but also a good stepping stone. Students can stay home, keep costs down, and avoid getting lost in the crowd at a university. They might get a job offer here or go on to study towards a Bachelor of Engineering Technology or Bachelor of Engineering (Honours).”

Our thanks to Mirko for his time and advice; if you have any queries contact

December 2016