A new employer-led engineering pathway

New employer led engineering pathway

Engineering employers have played a key role in developing a new pathway into engineering – the degree apprenticeship – with some are already committed to sponsoring apprentices in the 2019 pilot programme.

Degree apprenticeship learning model relies on employers

The degree apprenticeship learning model relies on employers. They employ apprentices full-time, supporting them to study towards a Bachelor of Engineering Technology (BEngTech). The apprentices work on business-focused projects, usually based on problems or opportunities in their own workplaces.

To find out more about degree apprenticeships and their benefits for employers, learners and institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs), see our info sheet and case study:
Info sheet: Degree apprenticeships
Case study: A pilot sponsored degree programme

Benefits for engineering employers

A shortage of engineers – particularly those with a BEngTech or New Zealand Diploma in Engineering –  affects many engineering employers around the country. The problem is more acute for those with a large number of engineers close to retirement age, or whose area of practice has a low profile in terms of public awareness.

The degree apprenticeship, however, is about more than alleviating skills shortages. It provides a mechanism for employers to influence content, delivery and assessment of the qualification. They can ensure that their apprentices gain knowledge, skills and behaviours directly relevant to their specific industry.

Employers play a key role in creating the new pathway

Right from the start, employers have been empowered to co-design the new degree. They were involved in 2017 discussions around the model’s suitability for the New Zealand context.

Focusing the pilot on infrastructure

The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) had long been concerned about skills shortages and low numbers of engineering graduates in the public works profession. It launched the Fostering our Future initiative to investigate challenges and opportunities in the sector, and in 2017 signed a memorandum of understanding with Engineering e2e to support each other’s initiatives promoting engineering.

IPWEA has played a major role in developing the pilot programme which is focused on the needs of the infrastructure sector.  
Case study: Fostering our Future

Developing an Infrastructure Asset Management standard

Over ten employers, in collaboration with Otago Polytechnic and WelTec, are designing a new infrastructure asset management standard degree.

In 2018, the Employer Development Group met to consider whether the key outcomes as defined in 2017 are still appropriate. They will now work with ITPs to co-develop a method of assessment.

18 employers already committed to the pilot

As of May 2018, 18 employers – mostly from councils and large contracting companies that employ high numbers of engineers on infrastructure projects – had committed to joining the degree apprenticeship programme.

Vaughn Crowther, principal advisor at Utility and voluntary programme manager of the Fostering our Future campaign, notes that the skills shortage is already here and it’s systemic. “It’s too late to simply let the market correct itself because the problem is structural. We actually have to collectively intervene to regain a more efficient labour force.”

Vaughn believe employers, particularly large ones, can still make a difference. “Having them on board has been critical,” he says. “They’re incredibly supportive of the project. They are beginning to demonstrate the leadership that our profession has desperately needed for some time.”

The Employer Development Group overseeing the project continues to seek input from engineering employers around the country and encourage them to get on board to help run the pilot.

Creating an additional engineering pathway for school leavers

The group is aiming for around 15 to 20 students in the first year “which we will get pretty easily”, Vaughn says.  In addition to opening up opportunities for young people, the new engineering degree also offers a pathway to those wanting to undertake a career shift. “You are getting paid to learn. That is an attractive proposition to anyone considering a career within infrastructure.” Vaughn says.

As some senior school students are making tertiary study decisions by mid-year, the Employer Development Group hopes to start actively promoting the pilot by August.

Opportunities for people already in the workforce

While the project is currently focused more on school leavers, there is, of course, huge scope for employers to support current staff who wish to upskill or change career direction.

This ties in neatly with another Engineering e2e project IPWEA is involved in – developing micro-credentials.

“The degree apprenticeship pilot is opening up a new pathway for people to enter the public works profession,” Vaughn says, “and our micro-credentials project is looking at a more modern and efficient framework for people to advance their skills and career prospects.

Our public works professionals often work in small organisations with limited career advancement prospects, so they tend to circle around the sector to advance their career. This does not help the situation, rather, it just shifts the problem around the country. If we can find a more user-friendly way to train them and accredit them in their current role, they might remain with that employer longer while adding much more value through new skills.”
Info sheet: Micro-credentials

Degree apprenticeship pilot: Phase 3

With development of the degree apprenticeship pilot well underway, Phase 3 involves the rollout of the pilot in 2019. The Employers Development Group will be involved in evaluating the pilot content and delivery, looking at what worked well, in terms of the intended benefits to learners and employers, and  what needs to be modified.

Our thanks to Vaughn for his time and advice; you can contact him at and James at If you have any other queries please get in touch with us at

May 2018