The economic impact of Covid-19 has urged many New Zealanders to turn the pandemic into a catalyst for a career change, and in the case of Pukekohe-born Dean Morris, an opportunity to upskill and establish himself as a leader in a field with huge potential.
At 31, Dean decided to sign up for the University of Waikato’s Fast Track Engineering Programme – a new accelerated graduate programme that slashes the study time for aspiring engineers. Dean says completing a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in two-years instead of four will allow him to confidently pursue his career aspirations.
“I see the Fast Track programme as a unique opportunity to diversify my skills and future-proof my career. For me, this is a pathway to eventually becoming Chartered as a professional engineer through Engineering New Zealand,” he says.
With 13 years of experience in the industry under his belt, Dean started the programme in July while working full-time as a senior engineer in Auckland. Dean’s study highlight so far has been working on a water engineering project to provide a town with a full drinking water distribution system.
“Studying while working can be a huge commitment time-wise, but the projects are very interesting and the lecturers have been very supportive and accommodating. I tend to complete lectorials and assignments after work hours, and I also take advantage of the extra tutorials on offer, which make students feel even more engaged.”
Engineering hopefuls and engineers looking to upskill, like Dean, now have an opportunity to enrol and complete a full-time engineering degree within two years, starting in November this year or March 2021. Taught through the University’s School of Engineering, this new programme has been specially designed for skilled workers whose jobs may have been impacted by Covid-19.
But who is eligible for the Fast Track programme? Dependent on prior qualifications and experience, the programme is open to those who are already working in the industry and have completed a New Zealand Diploma in Engineering or Bachelor of Engineering Technology. It is also open to graduates with degrees in allied disciplines such as architecture, town planning, earth sciences, chemistry, physics, mathematics and computer science. Each student’s study journey will be customised based on their prior qualifications and skills, with additional support and online courses available to those needing to brush up on their physics and math skills before starting their full-time studies.
Dean of Engineering at the University, Professor Mark Dyer, says the new programme comes at a critical time as firms are reducing hours and cutting paychecks, with many New Zealanders looking to reskill or retrain to improve their post-Covid career options.
“This is a unique and timely offering in light of the immense changes every industry has faced over the course of the pandemic, with many local industries experiencing significant job losses, while others anticipate a marked increase in workload due to Government investment in infrastructure, including 18 large-scale capital works programmes in the Waikato region,” he says.
“There are many highly skilled individuals in industries that have been adversely affected by Covid-19, but at the same time there’s a demand for engineers – particularly civil – in a post-Covid environment. Boosting your skillset and retraining for an in-demand job can help you weather the current economic downturn. So, for those who might be considering a career change, or have suddenly found themselves out of work, a career pivot to an industry with huge potential is a smart choice.”
Professor Dyer says New Zealand needs more creative engineers and the University of Waikato is leading the way when it comes to high-tech, innovative solutions to real-world problems. The School of Engineering has built strong industry partnerships over the years that have led to student and graduate placements in leading employers, like Gallagher, Fonterra, Robotics Plus and OJI.
“The jobs and industry connections here are unparalleled. Graduates who come through our engineering programme land jobs. And, because of our rigorous work placement programme, they enter the workforce with practical knowledge ready to be applied.”
Professor Dyer says the University’s robust work integrated programme has continued to thrive during and post-lockdown.
“Waikato is where the jobs are, and with the region’s shovel-ready projects in their proposal phase, we’re set to see further growth in the region that will lead to jobs,” he says.
Enrolments for the Fast Track engineering programme are open now, to start in November 2020 or March 2021. This unique programme means everyone’s start point will be different. To find out what your Fast Track journey might look like, contact the School of Engineering at the University of Waikato.