Secondary/Tertiary Engineering Programme


A Waikato initiative starting this year aims to get local students into engineering. Developed by Wintec and two secondary schools, the pilot programme focuses on preparing students to successfully complete the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE).

Raising awareness of engineering careers

Raising awareness of pathways into engineering is one challenge, the other is to reach students before they drop maths and science at school. As part of this effort, Wintec had engaged with the Techlink Pilot Programme which was exploring ways to build relationships between ITPs and secondary schools to give students a taste of engineering. Alongside this, in response to Engineering e2e’s strategic plan, it set up a new initiative to explicitly prepare students for study towards the NZDE.

In 2015, Wintec proposed a programme in which students would split their week between its engineering facility and their school. Some of the local principals decided the existing trades academy (students spend one day a week at Wintec) provided an outlet for students wanting more hands-on engineering. However, the principals of Fairfield College and Fraser High School, Richard Crawford and Virginia Crawford respectively, viewed the programme as having the potential, through an engineering project approach, to engage interested students more purposefully in mathematics and physics.

Developing a pilot programmePhoto: Richard Crawford (Fairfield), Mark Flowers (Wintec)

With participants keen to get things moving, it was decided to launch a pilot programme in 2016 with 30 students. Over the last six months the schools have worked in collaboration with Wintec to develop the pilot. Students will spend two days a week at Wintec, taking half-year courses in Mechanical Engineering and Building and Construction. During the three days at school their Maths and Physics lessons will be delivered around an engineering context.

Project-based learning is a key component of the programme. At Wintec, the students will work on practical activities and get experience in using specialist machinery. They will develop a minibike in the Mechanical Engineering course and construct a sleep-out in Building and Construction. School-based learning in Maths and Physics classes will focus on engineering-related projects rather than particular achievement standards. Assessment will be based on what the students are learning and will lead to NCEA achievement standards in those areas.

While subject teachers will deliver the lessons, they will be supported by a Wintec engineering tutor as they design the new courses. As well as meeting the requirements of the New Zealand Curriculum, the courses will give students the knowledge and skills needed to start the NZDE programme in 2017.

Student uptake

Fairfield College has restricted student participation to Year 13s, while Frasher High School is allowing Year 12 students to also take part in the programme. “Next year will not be the final year of secondary school for these students,” Richard says, “but the first year of a three-year programme that places them in the strongest possible position to achieve the NZDE in 2018.”

Both principals are enthusiastic about the advantages the programme offers students. Virginia says, “Creating purpose and context in learning with a clearer line of sight between what a student learns at school and how it is connected to the engineering vocation is a game changer.” Richard notes that because of the clearer vocational direction the programme offers it also provides a good opportunity for students who may have become disengaged from science and maths to reconnect.

 “If we can create a greater relevance and purpose for learning things – if students can see where they want to be – they are more motivated. This engineering programme is an important part of the overall school strategy to create more purposeful learning pathways.”

The principals informed parents of selected students (those with the necessary level of maths and an attitude that would help them succeed) about the pilot and future opportunities. Richard noted in his letter, “To be 20 or 21 years old and embarking on an engineering career with a very competitive salary (estimated $45,000) and exciting career opportunities is an outcome that this programme is designed to achieve.

Students and parents could also attend the Wintec open day to find out more about what’s involved in studying there.

Increasing diversity

With educators and employers becoming more aware of the advantages in promoting diversity in engineering, it’s an extra bonus having these particular schools participating in the pilot.  Both have high numbers of Maori and Pasifika students, with many of those opting for the programme identifying as one (or both) of these groups. In addition to increasing diversity within the industry, these students will also be role models to encourage more Maori and Pasifika into engineering.

At this stage, it is predominantly boys opting for the programme. Virginia and Richard hope to see the number of girls considering a career in engineering increasing as they become more aware of the rewards and opportunities in these areas.

The programme will be evaluated at the end of 2017 with a view to increasing the number of participating schools and students in 2018.

Our thanks to Richard, Virginia and Wintec staff for their time and advice. If you have any queries please contact

January 2016