INDUSTRY LINKS CASE STUDY
Control systems engineer David Hale has come a long way since graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering Technology (BEngTech) twelve years ago – he's now a partner in Controlweb, a company set up with a friend and colleague.
David started out doing mechanical engineering at Canterbury University, but was more interested in control systems – the engineering that deals with the automation of plant and machinery to make systems and processes run smoothly with the minimum of manual monitoring. As a result he switched to do a BEngTech at what is now ARA Institute of Canterbury.
Specialised control systems papers
“The beauty of the BEngTech degree was that it did have specialised control systems papers … and although it did go into the theoretical side, it did have a practical focus as well,” he says.
There were other advantages too. “There’s also the fact that you’ve got more contact with your tutors and a bit more of a relationship. When I studied, it was a smaller class and, for me, it was a better learning environment.”
It was a good course, and on graduation he had no trouble getting a job – landing the first he applied for, which was working in the water and wastewater industry.
David says that job gave him great experience: “There was a large project going on at the time which gave me great exposure to large scale control systems. There was a lot of in-house knowledge within the company, so there was a good opportunity to learn, I was very lucky in that respect.”
From there he went to the United Kingdom for about four years. “I worked for a small systems integration firm in the water and wastewater industry over there for a year and then moved on to Honeywell Process Solutions and worked on a very large scale project. The project was in Qatar; however, I was doing development in the UK.”
That project gave him great exposure to oil and gas industry and the opportunity to work on “the largest plant I have ever heard of”.
What really matters when employing an engineer?
“Then, as luck would have it, when I returned to New Zealand my ex-boss was starting up his own company and asked me to join – and it was an opportunity I could not really turn down.
”It was pretty hard for the first few years but we are getting to the stage now where we have a good client base and enjoying it. “
As a business owner David is now employing other engineers and thinking about what really matters. The qualification they have is not as important as what they have done, being the right fit for the company and having a passion for the industry.
“The best candidate, we have often found, is someone who has completed a trade – has been an electrician or a fitter or whatever – and come through the degree that way. The same could be said for a BEngTech degree because it’s more practical, more hands-on and more applied.”
He says that so far they have not employed any other BEngTech graduates – not because the company is not interested, but because engineers with this qualification have not applied.
A strong focus on industry and being 'work ready'
A control system engineer “wears a few hats” David says. “You have to be a bit process engineer, a bit mechanical engineer, a bit electrical and then a bit software engineer. And without all those attributes it becomes very difficult because you have to understand every part of the system in order to control it. I think that’s what makes a good control systems engineer.”
David thinks a BEngTech, with its strong focus on industry and being work ready, provides a strong foundation for working in this field of engineering, just as it did for him. If you are slightly more practical the BEngTech is a great choice he says.
And David’s advice to both students and employers is that they shouldn’t be influenced by the fact that the degree is offered by a polytechnic rather than a university. “Instead, look at the candidate and whether they are the right fit for the role”, he says.
Our thanks to David for his time and advice; if you have any queries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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