Electrotechnology course leads students into engineering


An Electrotechnology course taught by Ara Institute of Canterbury at Papanui High School this year is already paying off. Students are enthusiastic about what they're learning and some have decided to study engineering.

Working across two campuses

Papanui High School had an existing relationship with the Ara Department of Engineering and Architectural Studies. In 2015, some of its students had attended an Electronics course run for secondary school students as part of Ara’s initiative to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects.

The school lost its senior Electronics teacher in 2015 as he was returning to the UK, and after extensive advertising for a replacement was unable to find a suitable person. Papanui High School then approached Ara Institute of Canterbury to see if they could work collaboratively together in delivering suitable courses for their students.

Ara tutors, both of whom had industry experience and teacher training, taught the new courses. Students had two 105-minute lessons at school each week and another two at Ara, where they had access to the institute’s specialist electronics equipment.

Ian Williamson taught the Year 12 class, in which students learnt basic electronics theory and worked on projects which involved building circuits. Steve Neale expanded on this in Year 13 with more complex projects, including a programmable controller.

In designing their courses, Ian and Steve referred to the relevant NCEA unit standards so that students could present their work for NCEA assessment.

Student enthusiasm

The 27 students have enjoyed the courses, and Steve notes that one enrolled at Ara halfway through the year to study towards the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE). He says that a few are now seriously considering a career in engineering or have confirmed their interest in working in that area. “It’s small beginnings, but hopefully will lead to a tidal wave.”

Links with local industry

Making links with local industry was also important. Students had field trips to electronics factories where they could observe engineering in action, talk to staff about their roles and see how the skills and knowledge they were learning could lead into similar jobs. The Year 12 students visited GPC Electronics and TE Connectivity and the Year 13 students went to AuCom Electronics and Dynamic Controls, allowing them to experience first-hand some of the many applications and products of quality engineering.

Steve says that it’s encouraging for students to see the good job prospects that come with the NZDE. “Industry is very interested in youngsters coming through, so you can tell them it’s a viable job path. The student who enrolled in the NZDE course this year quickly got a job, so he’s getting practical experience in the workplace while he studies.”

Extending the programme

Associate Principal Mike Vannoort says feedback from students and parents has been positive. “They are grateful that the courses are still being offered and that the school has ‘gone the extra mile’ to provide this pathway for students.”

Following the success of the inaugural courses, they will be repeated again next year. Ara is also rolling the initiative out to other schools in the Canterbury region, having gained Secondary-Tertiary Pathways Project funding.

Our thanks to Steve and Mike for their time and advice; if you have any queries contact

December 2016