A pilot sponsored degree programme


Engineering employers played a key role in developing an Infrastructure Asset Management standard for a pilot sponsored (degree apprenticeship) programme. It is aimed at filling a recruitment gap and catering in particular to the needs of rural New Zealand and school leavers.

What is a sponsored degree?

The ‘sponsored degree’ or ‘degree apprenticeship’ is a learning model currently used in some countries. Students are employed full time by an engineering company which provides on-the-job training to complement their tertiary studies towards a degree in engineering.

Why introduce it here?

In response to low numbers of Bachelor of Engineering Technology (BEngTech) graduates, Engineering e2e commissioned research into the feasibility of the degree apprenticeship model in this country. In their 2015 report Stepping into one another’s world: apprenticeships – transforming engineering technologist education in New Zealand Professor Jane Goodyear and Dr Greg Frater of Massey University found that apprenticeships deliver a more rounded engineer and recommended a similar Level 7 degree for New Zealand.
Stepping into one another's world (2015)
UK degree apprenticeships: a year in review (2016)

A serious skills shortage

At the same time, The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) was launching its own initiative in response to a serious shortage of engineers; more critical than other sectors. Its 2015 report Fostering our Future identified the need to work closely with the tertiary education sector and collaborate with organisations promoting careers in engineering.

IPWEA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Engineering e2e this year, and has been heavily involved in developing the pilot sponsored degree programme. – IPWEA members identified infrastructure asset management as an area of need.
See case study Fostering our Future

Employer response

Engineering e2e commissioned the research team, comprised of Professor Jane Goodyer and Dr Jenny Poskitt from Massey University and Dr James Mackay from WelTec, to facilitate the development of the pilot degree.

Employers involved in developing the new standard were enthusiastic about the concept and the potential benefits for the industry and New Zealand:

 “We need to have something that attracts the young people and encourages them to learn the fundamentals before rushing up the career ladder. If we went to the industry – we could rustle them up pretty quickly; 18 year olds paid and no loan.”

“We need people to have the theoretical understanding from the outset, but also to have experience with practical materials to understand properties for design work.”

The group noted that the pilot programme will require a high level of commitment from engineering employers. In addition to the financial cost of employing the students, they will need to ensure suitable people are available to providing the training necessary to give them the skills outlined in the programme.

Developing an Infrastructure Asset Management standard

The employers came from consulting firms, contractors and councils, with a mix of big-and-small, urban-and- rural organisations. The group also included representatives from two polytechnics.

The research team interviewed the employers and ran two workshops. Participants focused first on succession planning, considering what knowledge, skills and behaviours were required to replace someone in a leadership position. They then mapped out a qualification pathway from Levels 6 and 7 to a potential Level 9 qualification for people currently working in asset management or wanting to specialise in that area.

The group identified desired outcomes for a programme of study which included knowledge, skills and behaviours expected of graduates working in infrastructure asset management.

The research team released a report A pilot study of the application of degree apprenticeships in new Zealand: a focus on infrastructure asset management about the development of the standard.
A pilot study of the application of degree apprenticeships in New Zealand (2017)

Our thanks to Jenny for her time and advice; if you have any queries please contact

July 2017